Dengue fever is a viral illness spread by mosquitoes. The disease occurs mainly in tropical areas. It is most common during the rainy season in areas that are infested with infected mosquitoes. Sometimes, persons arriving from other countries may enter the United States already sick with dengue fever, and they infect local mosquitoes when they are bitten. These local mosquitos will then pass the illness on to a person when they bite them. This is what is happening now on the Big Island. There are many other mosquito borne illnesses, such as St. Louis Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever and Malaria. These illnesses have many similar symptoms and can make you feel very ill, similar to the flu.
How do you get it?
The dengue virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Dengue is not spread directly from one person to another. People are not infectious to other people while ill.
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
The symptoms of dengue fever include sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, eye, joint, and muscle pain, and rash. The rash typically appears on the hands, arms, legs and feet 3 to 4 days after the fever begins. Minor bleeding problems can also occur. The symptoms usually go away completely within 1 to 2 weeks. Sometimes, people with dengue fever have blood clotting problems. When this happens, the illness is called dengue hemorrhagic fever. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a very serious illness with abnormal bleeding and very low blood pressure (shock). A doctor should be seen if this happens.
When do symptoms start?
The symptoms usually start 5 to 6 days after being bitten by infected mosquitoes, but the onset can range from 2 to 15 days.
What is the treatment for dengue fever?
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Bed rest and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat fever and pain are recommended. Aspirin and NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen) are not recommended as they can make bleeding problems worse. There is currently no vaccine for dengue fever.
If you get dengue fever once, can you get it again?
Yes. There are four major types of dengue viruses. Having dengue fever with one type of dengue virus will not protect you from the other three types.
How can you keep from getting it?
- When traveling to areas that have dengue fever, try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are usually most active in the early morning hours after daybreak, in the late afternoon before dark, and any time during the day when indoors or in shady areas.
- Use mosquito netting over beds, and screens on windows and doorways.
- Use mosquito repellents and wear appropriate clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants that reduce exposure to mosquito bites.
- Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors; so if possible, wear white or light colored clothing when you are likely to be exposed to biting mosquitoes.
Steps that we can take to minimize mosquito breeding on our jobsites or at your home:
- Dispose of old tires, buckets, aluminum cans, plastic sheeting or other trash that can hold water. Empty accumulated water from trash cans, boats, buckets, wheel barrows and flower pots. If possible, turn these items over when they are not in use.
- Clean debris from rain gutters and unclog obstructed downspouts. Clogged rain gutters are one of the most overlooked breeding sites for mosquitoes around homes.
- Remove any standing water that you can see. Repair leaking faucets and air conditioners that produce puddles.
- Change water in bird baths and wading pools at least once a week. Keep swimming pools cleaned and chlorinated. Ornamental pools can be aerated or stocked with mosquito-eating fish. Mosquitoes prefer quiet, non-flowing water for egg-laying and development.
- Fill or drain ditches and swampy areas, and other soil depressions. Remove, drain, or fill tree holes and stumps to prevent accumulation of water. Make sure any outdoor containers have covers that fit tightly.
- Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent overwatering or accumulation.
- Treat infested water with a commercial insecticide from a home improvement store.