A potent dengue virus is sweeping parts of the country as the monsoon season is coming to an end. Earlier this month, the central government asked 11 states reporting DENV-2 virus infections to ensure early detection of cases and prevent further spread of this virus. States have been asked to start helplines to educate people and stock an adequate number of testing kits and medicines.
As people are still recovering from the trauma of COVID-19, this new viral spread could pose a serious health challenge for authorities in the upcoming festival season. Health experts fear the combined impact of these two diseases can result in devastating consequences.
What Is DENV-2?
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection and the virus that causes the disease is called the dengue virus (DENV). Female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedesaegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. Albopictus, transmit the virus. These mosquitoes also carry chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses. There are four dengue virus serotypes (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4), meaning that it is possible to be infected four times.
While most infections produce only mild illness, dengue virus can cause an acute flu-like illness. Sometimes this develops into severe dengue, which is blamed on the DENV-2 type. The DENV-2 type is considered the most severe. In addition to fever, it can cause two or more other symptoms of typical dengue infection and can be fatal.
The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme lists the symptoms for two categories of dengue infection: dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever. They are listed below:
For dengue fever:
- Abrupt onset of high fever
- Severe frontal headache
- Pain behind the eyes, in muscles and joints
- Loss of appetite and sense of taste
- Rash over the chest
- Nausea and vomiting
For hemorrhagic fever:
Apart from symptoms similar to dengue fever, this infection may accompany severe and continuous stomach pain, cause skin to turn pale, cold, or clammy. There could be bleeding from the nose, frequent vomiting, and the mouth could become dry and the patient may feel thirsty and experience difficulty in breathing.
World Health Organization (WHO) says dengue-produced flu-like symptoms can last for 2-7 days and the incubation period can be 4-10 days.
Which States Are Reporting DENV-2?
Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (Firozabad is one of the worst-hit places), Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana are reporting DENV-2, according to the Ministry of Health and FamilyWelfare.
Several methods can be used to diagnose DENV infection such as virological tests and serological tests. Patient samples collected during the first week of illness should be tested by both serological and virological methods (RT-PCR).
No specific treatment has been found for dengue fever so far. Pills to reduce fever and painkillers can be taken to control the symptoms. Patients should immediately consult a physician. They should maintain a healthy ratio of body fluid volume for severe dengue care, according to WHO.
According to WHO, 390 million people get infected with dengue every year. And 3.9 billion people are at risk of infection with dengue viruses. Though the risk of infection exists in 19 countries, 70 percent of the actual burden is reported from Asia.
Over the last two decades, the number of dengue cases reported to WHO jumped 8 fold – from 505,430 cases in 2000 to over 2.4 million in2010, and 5.2 million in 2019. Reported deaths increased from 960 in the year 2000 to 4,032 in 2015.