Of mosquito-transmitted diseases, malaria is the more known and warned-about. It is also, in a way, the more “romanticized” disease, since it can be caught mainly in rural areas. Catching malaria in raw jungle makes for a story, because of the surroundings and the idea of being far, far away from help. It also infects and kills more every year.
However, they miss out on catching another deadly mosquito-transmitted disease: dengue. Unlike malaria, dengue infects both rural and urban dwellers equally. Visitors to climates with good mosquito-breeding conditions should be aware that they are not safe from this kind of disease even if they stay in the city.
What Is Dengue?
Dengue is a mosquito-transmitted disease by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the Aedes albopictus mosquito. It is a viral transmission, with the highest risk in tropical countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Pacific islands, and the Caribbean. 40% of the world’s population lives in places with high dengue risk.
How Is Dengue Transmitted?
While dengue cannot be transmitted directly from person to person, it can still spread relatively quickly because of mosquitos. A mosquito gets infected from the person it bites (unlike the malaria mosquito, which actually carries it), and then infects the next person it bites. Because of this cycle, dengue can have (although very rarely) epidemics in which up to 90% of those bitten are infected (the normal rate is up to 50%).
Most importantly, the mosquito which most commonly transmits the virus, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, only feeds in the day. It often comes out in early morning, and then just before nightfall. The normal precautions against mosquito bites can be taken during the night (netting, electric fans, airconditioners). Additional precautions may be taken during the day such as mosquito repellant, and long sleeves in late afternoons.
What Are the Symptoms of Dengue?
For the milder forms of dengue and the beginning of the more violent forms, the first signs and symptoms are a headache, a very sudden fever, and rashes. Vomiting and diarrhea often accompanies these, as well as bleeding in the nose and mouth, and soreness in muscles and joints. As the disease progresses, it turns into internal bleeding (especially of the stomach and intestines), and hypotension.
The phase in which the patient is already in recovery is one that needs to be closely watched. Tired and weakened, the heart rate tends to be excessively low, there is itching around the body, and the patient can suffer seizures. In some cases, the patient is less aware of reality and has an altered consciousness state.
Should I Be Afraid of Dengue?
If you have just traveled to a tropical country, keep yourself under observation for the first two weeks. If you have a very sudden fever accompanied by rashes and vomiting, to a healthcare professional at once. A blood test should tell if you have dengue or not, and what kind of dengue it is.
However, there is practically no way to prevent dengue other than preventing mosquito bites. There is no vaccine against it you can take before going to a tropical country. There is also no medicine that directly combats dengue. Doctors prescribe rest and heavy hydration, but the patient can only wait it out. It is safest to prevent any risk of contracting the disease in the first place.