ANYONE COULD easily survive dengue fever but not its lethal complication known as dengue hemorrhagic fever.
First recognized in the 1950s during a dengue epidemic in the Philippines and Thailand, DHF is characterized by a fever that lasts from two to seven days.
It usually occurs after an initial fever, wherein a patient thinking it?s already over, would suddenly develop symptoms that would include appearance of rashes in the arms and legs that may soon spread to the chest and abdomen.
Persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain and difficulty breathing may follow.
According to doctors, this also marks the beginning of a 24- to 48-hour period when the smallest blood vessels in the body become excessively ?leaky? with the patients showing manifestations of mild bleeding in the eyes, nose or gums. In addition, the patient with DHF develops low platelet count (platelets are the particles in blood that help with clotting and as a result, blood does not clot normally).
If this circulatory failure is not corrected, this may lead to shock, followed by death.
No specific medication
Because DHF is caused by a virus for which there is no known cure or vaccine, the only treatment is to treat the symptoms.
A transfusion of fresh blood or platelets can correct bleeding problems especially when platelet count gets dangerously low. Intravenous fluids and electrolytes are also used to correct electrolyte imbalances as well as oxygen therapy may be needed to treat abnormally low blood oxygen.
Because rehydration with intravenous fluids is often necessary to treat dehydration, staying in a hospital or clinic is highly advised so supportive care in an intensive care unit/environment may be given.
If left untreated, one could end up dead from encephalopathy (altered brain function and structure), liver damage, residual brain damage, seizures or shock.
Vaccine developers are hampered by several challenges.
First is the fact that there are four distinct, but closely related, viruses that cause dengue fever. Recovery from infection by one provides lifelong immunity against that virus but confers only partial and transient protection against subsequent infection by the other three viruses.
With these closely related viruses, the vaccine that should be developed must be effective against all these four types.
Secondly, though first identified more than 50 years ago, little is still known about how the dengue fever or the DHF typically behaves and how the virus interacts with the immune system.
At the moment, the most effective means are still those that avoid the bites of the mosquitoes that carry the virus like the Aedes aegypti.
Experts remind that dengue virus is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. It could only be spread by certain species of mosquitoes that, interestingly, incidentally fed on an infected person.
Best preventive measure
Because of this, the best preventive measure is to eliminate the places where these infective female Aedes mosquitoes lay eggs: artificial containers that hold clear and stagnant water.
Items that collect rainwater or are used to store water (for example, plastic containers, toilet bowl, buckets, or used automobile tires) should be covered or properly discarded.
Pet and animal watering containers and vases with fresh flowers should be emptied and scoured at least once a week as this will help eliminate the mosquito eggs and larvae and reduce the number of mosquitoes present in the areas.
Aside from searching for and destroying breeding grounds of mosquitos, the public is also advised to do self-protection by using mosquito nets, wearing protective clothes, or using mosquito repellents.
The Department of Health reminds that these mosquitoes should not be taken for granted as they already caused more than 60,000 Filipinos to become bedridden or sent to hospitals since January. Close to 500 individuals have already died from DHF and other complications.