15. Dengue Fever – Definition, Symptoms, and Treatments

15. Dengue Fever – Definition, Symptoms, and Treatments

Dengue Fever – Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment


Dengue is an infectious disease caused by the dengue virus. This virus gets transmitted via the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquitos.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue is spread widely throughout the tropical regions. Obviously, there may be variations in local areas in risk factors that are influenced by the amount of rainfall, variation in temperature, relative humidity, and in rapid urbanization that appears to be unplanned.

The dengue virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family, which is a family that encompasses the Zika virus and West Nile virus.

There are 4 main subtypes of the Dengue virus:

  • DENV-1
  • DENV-2
  • DENV-3
  • DENV-4

Once infected with one subtype, you will get lifelong-immunity against that particular subtype. However, this does not provide you with immunity against the other subtypes.

Additionally, subsequent infections by other Dengue virus subtypes often present with more severe symptoms.

This article will briefly cover the symptoms of dengue fever, as well as the available treatment options.

Signs and symptoms of dengue fever

Symptoms of dengue fever start 4–10 days after the introduction of the virus to the body. Most patients experience mild to no symptoms and may confuse the infection with the flu.

Here are the common signs and symptoms of dengue fever:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Retroorbital pain (pain behind the eyes)
  • Myalgias (muscle pain)
  • Arthralgias (articular pain)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting)
  • Lymphadenopathies (swollen lymph nodes)
  • A skin rash

Unfortunately, these symptoms are non-specific and could present during any viral infection.

Some patients might develop severe symptoms of dengue, which should be a warning sign as most viral infections’ symptoms subside with time.

Here are some severe symptoms of dengue that should raise a flag:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood with vomiting
  • Fast breathing
  • Bleeding in the gums
  • Fatigue and restlessness

These symptoms could lead to serious complications, including respiratory failure, hemorrhagic shock, and end-organ damage.

Additionally, if dengue affects children, there is the risk of developing febrile seizures.

Treatment of dengue fever

It is a sad reality that they have not been able to find a specific treatment for dengue fever.

The reason is simple: dengue fever is the result of a virus that we currently don’t have the treatment for.

Unlike bacterial infections, which respond to antibiotics, viruses are much difficult to treat since they can change their structure and do not have active metabolism or even enzymes to target.

Viruses invade our cells and start to produce the necessary proteins necessary for multiplication, using our own cellular machinery.

The only thing we can do when dealing with a viral infection is to wait for the immune system to destroy the viruses and the infected cells.

However, this doesn’t mean that patients with dengue fever don’t receive treatment; it just means that the treatment is going to cure the infection but rather improve the patient’s symptoms.

For instance, the cornerstone of dengue fever treatment is to keep the patient sufficiently hydrated, as this is the origin of all complications. Also, Tylenol (i.e., acetaminophen) is useful for fever and chills.

Takeaway message

As you can see, dengue fever is a serious medical condition with fatal consequences if left untreated; it affects hundreds of millions of people every year and kills hundreds of thousands.

This warrants the need for more serious measurements funded by all the governments that deal with large epidemics to find a definitive solution for this deadly virus.