Dengue Fever: An Overview of this Bloodborne Disease

Charlotte Miller

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Did you know that 400 million people contract dengue fever every single year? Even worse, many people don’t even know that the condition exists despite its prevalence.

Although, this may be because of its rarity in the United States. Only about 100 cases occur in the US every year. But these come mostly from people who traveled outside of the country. However, outbreaks of dengue fever have occurred in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida.

Dengue fever is a dangerous flu-like illness that we need to get under control. Even if you live in an area where the condition isn’t prevalent, it’s important to learn more about the bloodborne pathogen. You could save someone’s life or even your own life.

Whether you’re planning or traveling or just want to know more, keep reading. We have everything you need to know about dengue fever and how to fight against this infection.

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What Is Dengue Fever?

You may hear some people refer to dengue fever as breakbone fever. These are the same condition.

Dengue fever, or breakbone fever, is an infection that transfers from person to person via infected mosquitos. Specifically, dengue fever spreads via two kinds of Aedes mosquitos:

  1. Aedes aegypti
  2. Aedes albopictus

Both of these mosquitos are found all over the world. But a mosquito has to be infected with dengue fever to pass it along to humans. There are many high-risk regions for dengue fever around the world.

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Is Dengue Fever a Bloodborne Pathogen?

Dengue fever is a bloodborne pathogen.

Bloodborne pathogens are diseases that pass through the blood. This can happen with viruses, bacteria, parasites, and more. It’s important to learn about how to handle bloodborne pathogens to prevent further infection.

Dengue fever is considered a bloodborne pathogen because the mosquito that is carrying the disease passes it to humans via the bloodstream. When an infected mosquito bites a human, it transfers the disease into the human bloodstream.

Likewise, mosquitos become infected when they bite into a human that is infected with dengue fever.

So, mosquitos act like vectors for the transfer of the disease from one human to another.

What Causes Dengue Fever?

There are four different viruses that can cause dengue fever. Mosquitos spread all four of these viruses. More specifically, the majority of these viruses spread via Aedes aegypti while some cases spread via Aedes albopictus.

Dengue fever spread from monkeys hundreds of years ago. Today, it’s more commonly found in tropical areas around the world.

Mosquitos can contract dengue fever by biting someone who is infected with it. From there, the mosquito can pass dengue fever onto others. This is one of the methods of transferring bloodborne pathogens.

It is possible to contract the virus more than once. And, unfortunately, each infection carries more risk. This means that each infection could cause worse complications.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dengue Fever?

Symptoms of dengue fever range from mild to severe. So, depending on the kind of dengue fever that you get, you could be dealing with anything from fever to death. 

Let’s evaluate dengue fever at its different severities.

Mild Dengue Fever

Symptoms of mild dengue fever may start appearing within seven days of contracting the illness. Again, humans get the disease when they’re bitten by a mosquito that carries the disease. So, symptoms may start showing up within seven days of the mosquito bite.

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with mild dengue fever:

  • Muscle aches
  • Recurring body rashes
  • Fevers
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain behind the eyes

These symptoms could subside after a week. And, this kind of dengue fever rarely causes any serious complications.

Severe Dengue Fever

There are two kinds of severe dengue fever:

  1. Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)
  2. Dengue shock syndrome (DSS)

DSS is more severe than DHF but both require hospitalization in most cases.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF)

People who contract DHF may begin with mild symptoms. However, these symptoms quickly get worse as the days go on. In fact, many patients start showing signs of internal bleeding.

Here are some symptoms that a patient with DHF may experience:

  • Bleeding in the mouth, especially from the gums
  • Blooding in the nose
  • Black or tarry stools which indicate internal bleeding in the gastrointestinal system
  • Lower platelet counts
  • Sensitive stomach
  • Bruise-like spots under the skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Damage to blood vessels and lymph
  • Clammy skin

DHF can lead to death if left untreated. 

Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS)

DSS is the most severe form of dengue fever. Because of this, it’s also the most fatal form of the disease.

Patients may experience symptoms of mild dengue as well as the following more serious symptoms:

  • Extreme stomach pain
  • Disorientation
  • Hypotension which can happen suddenly, leading to fainting spells
  • Heavier bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Fluid coming from blood vessels

If DSS isn’t treated, it’s likely to result in death.

How Is Dengue Fever Diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms of dengue fever are similar to the signs and symptoms of other tropical viruses and conditions. So, this can cause a delay in the diagnosis process.

It’s important to see a physician as soon as possible if you think that you may have dengue fever or a similar condition. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better your outcome may be.

When you see your physician, they’ll start by looking at the symptoms that you’re experiencing. They’ll also collect information from you by asking questions about your past medical history and recent travel history.

In order to confirm the diagnosis, your physician can order a blood test that can detect whether or not the virus is in your bloodstream. If your results come back positive, your physician will start treatment for the condition right away.

What Are the Treatments for Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is a virus. Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t any specific treatment or cure for the condition. 

However, certain interventions can help, depending on how severe the disease is.

To treat mild dengue fever, physicians focus on preventing dehydration. The fever and vomiting that come with mild dengue fever can cause dehydration since fluids aren’t staying in the body.

To fight against the loss of fluids, patients with dengue fever should be sure to drink plenty of clean water. Ideally, the infected individual can get access to bottled water rather than tap water. The rehydrating salts in bottled water can help replace fluids and minerals in the body.

People with mild dengue fever can also take painkillers to help ease pain and lower their fever.

It’s important to note that NSAIDs are not recommended to treat dengue fever. This is because they can increase the risk for internal bleeding. Patients with dengue fever are already at risk for internal bleeding, so NSAIDs could exacerbate this possibility.

Patients with more severe forms of dengue fever need more serious interventions. The most common treatment for severe dengue fever is intravenous (IV) fluids. These can help individuals who can’t keep any fluids down.

Some patients with serious dengue fever may need blood transfusions. This is especially if they’re having internal bleeding.

Patients with severe forms of dengue fever may need to be hospitalized so that medical professionals can monitor them. These professionals can make sure that their symptoms don’t worsen over time.

How Can I Prevent Dengue Fever?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for dengue fever currently. However, there are ways that we can work to prevent dengue fever.

Because the condition is passed via mosquitos, it’s important to prevent the condition by preventing mosquito bites, especially when you’re in an area where dengue fever is prevalent.

Here are some ideas for preventing mosquito bites in high-risk areas:

  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, socks, and hats to decrease the amount of skin that you’re exposing to mosquitos
  • Use repellant that has diethyltoluamide (DEET) at a 10% or more concentration but avoid the use of DEET on children
  • Use mosquito traps and nets that are treated with insecticide
  • Use screens or netting to keep mosquitos out of your home
  • Avoid using heavily scented soaps or perfumes
  • Treat all of your camping gear, clothes, shoes, and other fabrics with permethrin
  • Avoid being outside during dawn, dusk, or the early evening
  • Remove areas of stagnant water

By taking these precautions, you can greatly decrease your risk of contracting dengue fever and other conditions that spread in tropical climates.

It’s also important to let your physician know about future travel plans. They may be able to guide you towards other preventative methods such as medications that can prevent the formation of particular conditions.

Bloodborne Pathogens Training

Understanding how to control and prevent bloodborne pathogens is important. Proper bloodborne pathogens training can help contain the spread of viruses, bacteria, and more. Thus, it can save lives.

We highly recommend that you sign up for our bloodborne pathogens training course, especially if you’re at an increased risk of contracting any bloodborne pathogens. The sooner you educate yourself about these conditions, the better you can protect yourself at the workplace and in everyday life.

Get started today!