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DNA India
27 August 2010
By Santosh Andhale
Mumbai, India

The death of Dr Rajan Palav, 32, an ENT (ear, nose and throat) professor at the Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital, Byculla, on Monday has forced the city to broaden its malaria–centric focus to other mosquito–borne diseases. In August alone, dengue has claimed four lives, while 181 others have tested positive. The worst may be yet to come, as dengue cases usually peak towards the end of monsoon.

Dr Hemant Thacker, renowned consultant and senior physician from Jaslok Hospital, has seen over 400 cases of fever this monsoon – 300 due to malaria, and 100 caused by dengue. The physician gave DNA, a low–down on dengue fever.

Is dengue more dangerous than malaria?
While both diseases are caused by mosquito bites, the similarity ends there. Unlike malaria, dengue can be severe because the patient’s condition gets aggravated in a short span of time. The good news, however, is, with proper treatment at the right time, both diseases can be treated effectively. Hence, people need not panic if diagnosed with dengue. It is an acute illness with sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with symptoms such as headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen glands and rash. Compared to last year, malaria has hit the city far more severely. Dengue is still under control.

What are the symptoms and signs of dengue fever?
After being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, the incubation period ranges from three to 15 days, when the patient starts exhibiting symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, pain upon moving the eyes and lower backache.

Painful ache in the legs and joints occurs during the first few hours of the illness. The temperature rises quickly to as high as 104 degrees F, with low heart rate and blood pressure. The eyes become reddened. A flushing pink rash comes over the face and then disappears. The glands in the neck are often swollen. Dengue is also called break–bone fever as victims often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain.

What precautions should one take?
People should not ignore any kind of fever – they must immediately visit their family doctor and on his suggestion, they should take the required blood test. Self–medication is the most dangerous thing when it comes to dengue. Also, once they feel slightly better, patients should not stop medication half–way through a course.

How is dengue fever contracted?
The virus is contracted from the bite of the striped aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. The mosquito thrives during rains but can breed in water–filled flower pots, plastic bags, and cans all through the year. A single mosquito bite can inflict the disease. The virus is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. There has to be a person–to–mosquito–to–another–person pathway.

What kind of treatment is available?
Because dengue fever is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic for it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms. Patients have to take proper rest and a large intake of liquids.

What is Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever?
DHF is a more severe form of dengue. It can be fatal if undiagnosed and not treated properly. DHF is caused by an infection with the same viruses that causes dengue. With good medical management, mortality due to DHF can be less than 1%.

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