Dengue Fever is a viral illness spread by mosquitoes. You can find Dengue Fever throughout the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Oceania, Central and South America and to a lesser extent Africa. The disease can even be found in temperate climates in Southern Europe, and in fact, can establish itself in any location where the Aedes mosquito lives.
Every year 400 million people are infected by the Dengue virus, with around 100 million people becoming sick.
There are 4 strains of the Dengue Virus, which we refer to as DENV1, DENV2, DENV3, DENV4.
DENV1 and DENV2 are the most common strains.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever are very similar to those of other viral/tropical diseases in the early days of an infection. Common tropical illnesses that Dengue can be mistaken for include malaria, enteric fever, zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya to name just a few.
The disease can develop, into what is known as Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and the most severe form Dengue Haemorrhagic Shock with symptoms that include persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, liver enlargement, difficulty breathing, fluid accumulation and bleeding of mucous membranes eg gums. Whilst most patients recover with hospital treatment these forms of dengue can ultimately prove to be fatal.
Individuals who contract Dengue Fever will develop lifelong immunity to that particular strain but are not immune to reinfection and so can contract Dengue Fever on multiple occasions. Second infections are a risk factor for the severe forms of dengue.
It is worth noting that most cases of dengue Fever go unnoticed with symptoms that are mild, only 1 in 4 cases are typically symptomatic and of those who are symptomatic only 1 in 20 will likely suffer from severe dengue. That's around 1.25% of all Dengue Infections. Prompt intensive care treatment can reduce the risk of death in those with severe dengue to less than 0.5%
Risk factors for poor outcomes and hospitalisation with dengue fever:
Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments for Dengue Fever other than supportive care to minimise the risk of death if you suffer from a severe infection. So the best treatment is prevention, and this can be done by strict bite avoidance with insect repellents and vaccination.
The Dengue Fever Vaccine QDENGA is now available for use in the UK and can be recommended for suitable patients travelling to areas of the world where you may find the disease.