Several years ago, I was in the Dominican Republic (DR) providing medical care in areas of medical instability. During my trip (several), I visited the local hospital and met with the medical director. Subsequently, I toured the facility and discussed what types of care was being rendered. I was surprised to see an entire unit devoted to severe Dengue. It was then, that I realized what a problem this mosquito-borne illness was, especially in the DR. As I researched this ailment, I discovered it was more common in areas like the Caribbean, but it wasn't unique to it. In fact, Dengue is an epidemic in over 100 countries, including the U.S., and it can be fatal in extreme cases. To put into perspective, in 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 800 cases of Dengue of which over 20 advanced to 'severe dengue' (most likely hemorrhagic) in the U.S. alone.
Currently, there is a significant outbreak of Dengue fever in Jamaica. According to health officials, there have been at least 565 suspected, presumed, and confirmed cases in September. This news is concerning and calls for a quick response to prevent further spread of the illness. In this blog post, we will discuss Dengue along with methods of prevention.
Symptoms of dengue fever. The symptoms of dengue fever typically start 3 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Unfortunately, mild symptoms of Dengue can be confused with other illnesses and include fever, arthralgia, and rash. In Dengue, however, the arthralgia may be severe and seen behind the eyes and in muscles, joints, and bones. In most cases, these symptoms can be treated with acetaminophen, fluids, and rest. If you have been in areas known for Dengue or suspect it, it is best to see a healthcare provider early on.
Severe Dengue (hemorrhagic) symptoms. occurs in about 5% of individuals infected. Severe symptoms usually begin 24-48 hours after the fever has subsided and include abdominal pain, vomiting (may include blood), gum or nosebleeds, bloody stool, or abnormal fatigue and restlessness. If any of these symptoms occur, you need to go to the local clinic or emergency room immediately.
Prevention: Skin and Clothing. It is imperative to prevent mosquito bites which are the primary cause of dengue fever. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using insect repellents that contain about DEET (27%), Picaridin, or ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate (IR3535). Apply them to your skin, clothing, and exposed body parts whenever you're outdoors. Additionally, you can use permethrin-treated clothing and gear for added protection.
Prevention: Barriers. People traveling to areas like Jamaica should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites. They should stay in air-conditioned rooms or rooms with window and door screens. If possible, sleep under a mosquito net. Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito times such as early morning and late afternoon when the insects are most active.
Prevention: Reduced Mosquito Population. Always aim to reduce the mosquito population around you by eliminating standing water around your home. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so it is essential to get rid of any water-holding containers such as used tires, flowerpots, and plates underneath flower vases.
Education: It's essential to stay educated and informed about Dengue Fever and other infectious diseases. As the outbreak progresses, keep up with the latest news and updates from official sources such as the Center for Disease Control. This way, you can make the right decisions based on the current situation.
The outbreak of Dengue Fever (in Jamaica) is concerning, but it's essential to note that it is preventable. By following the tips outlined above, you can stay protected and safe from the disease. Remember to always seek medical attention if you suspect that you've been infected with dengue fever. Stay informed, and don't hesitate to contact a healthcare provider or official health agency if you have any concerns.