Your Health is Your Wealth: Dengue fever

Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Health & Wellbeing -

What is Dengue fever?

Dengue fever is an in­fec­tion caused by dengue viruses, of which there are four dif­fer­ent serotypes known to in­fect hu­mans. Serotype refers to groups of micro­organ­isms that are ex­tremely closely re­lated, but can be distin­guished by hav­ing slightly dif­fer­ent anti­gens (a for­eign sub­stance which causes the body to pro­duce an­ti­bod­ies) or caus­ing the body to pro­duce slightly dif­fer­ent an­ti­bod­ies. Dengue fever oc­curs in trop­i­cal and sub­trop­i­cal ar­eas of the world, in­clud­ing north­ern Aus­tralia. Dengue is a no­ti­fi­able con­di­tion.

How is dengue fever spread?

In Aus­tralia the dengue virus is trans­mit­ted by a bite from the Aedes ae­gypti mos­quito. Only the fe­male mos­quito trans­mits the dengue virus. This mos­quito is a day­time biter, both in­side and out­side homes, and is most ac­tive in the hours af­ter sun­rise and be­fore sun­set. Other species of mos­quito can trans­mit the virus but are not presently es­tab­lished in Aus­tralia. Aedes ae­gypti mos­qui­toes breed in­side and out­side the home in con­tain­ers hold­ing wa­ter and rarely fly more than 200 me­tres from the breed­ing site. They do not breed in creeks, swamps, pools or other bod­ies of wa­ter.

Signs and symp­toms

The dis­ease has a sud­den onset and symp­toms may in­clude fever for 3 to 7 days, in­tense headache and pain be­hind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, loss of ap­petite, vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea, skin rash, bleed­ing, usu­ally from the nose or gums. Re­cov­ery is some­times as­so­ci­ated with pro­longed fa­tigue and de­pres­sion.

Re­peated episodes of dengue fever may re­sult in ex­ces­sive bleed­ing and shock but, with ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment, are rarely fa­tal.

In­cu­ba­tion and in­fec­tion pe­ri­ods

In­cu­ba­tion pe­riod is the time be­tween be­com­ing in­fected and de­vel­op­ing symp­toms and it is 3 to 14 days, com­monly 4 to 7 days. In­fec­tion pe­riod is the time dur­ing which an in­fected per­son can in­fect oth­ers). A mos­quito be­comes in­fected if it bites an in­fected per­son while the fever is present (an av­er­age pe­riod of about 3 to 5 days). Af­ter bit­ing an in­fected per­son it takes 8 to 12 days be­fore the mos­quito can in­fect other peo­ple. The mos­quito re­mains in­fec­tious for life. Dengue fever is not di­rectly spread from per­son-to-per­son.


Di­ag­no­sis of dengue fever is made by clin­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion and a blood test.


There is no spe­cific an­tivi­ral treat­ment avail­able. Gen­eral rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude con­trol­ling fever and pain with parac­eta­mol rather than as­pirin (as­pirin may pro­mote bleed­ing), and in­creas­ing fluid in­take. As­pirin should not be given to chil­dren un­der 12 years of age un­less specif­i­cally rec­om­mended by a doc­tor.


• Ex­clu­sion from childcare, preschool, school or work is usu­ally not nec­es­sary but peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fever from dengue in­fec­tion should not be in an en­vi­ron­ment where they may be bitten by mos­qui­toes. If this is not pos­si­ble they should stay at home un­til they have no fever and are there­fore no longer in­fec­tious (usu­ally 3 to 5 days).

• There is no vac­cine to pre­vent hu­man in­fec­tion by this virus.

• Per­sonal pro­tec­tion and the en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment of mos­qui­toes are im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing ill­ness.

• Pre­vent ac­cess of mos­qui­toes to an in­fected per­son with a fever.

• Pro­tect your­self from mos­quito bites at all times in dengue ar­eas.

I will write next is­sue about how to pro­tect your­self and oth­ers at home and dur­ing hol­i­days from mos­quito-borne dis­ease.

God bless, Dr. Ashraf Mina Prin­ci­pal Sci­en­tist | NSW Health Pathol­ogy Ph.D., M.Sc.(Clin Biochem), B.Sc.(Hons), Grad Dip (Biochem Nu­tri­tion), Grad Dip (Mi­cro), MACMSR, MAIMS. In­sti­tute of Clin­i­cal Pathol­ogy and Med­i­cal Re­search (ICPMR), West­mead Hos­pi­tal. Se­nior clin­i­cal lejjc­turer, Fac­ulty of Medicine, Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity. Ad­dress: Locked Bag 9001, West­mead NSW 2145

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