Mosquito-borne fevers, especially Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya, have shown a significant rise recently. If unchecked, these diseases can lead to the death of the patient.
Unlike Malaria, which is associated with Anopheles mosquito, Dengue and Chikungunya are infections spread by the Aedes mosquito. While both Dengue and Chikungunya are insect-borne viral diseases, Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium that normally spread through infected mosquitoes.
All the three diseases overlap in distribution to a large extent, and their symptoms can make them difficult to distinguish in the early stages. In order to prevent these endemic diseases we need to understand them first.
What is Dengue Fever?
Dengue fever is a viral infectious disease carried by Aedes mosquito. The disease is caused by any of the four related dengue viruses, such as DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4. Dengue fever is also called break-bone fever because it sometimes causes severe muscle and joint pain that feels like bones are breaking.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
Exact symptoms of Dengue fever depend on age and usually start with fever within 4-7 days after a person has been bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms of classic dengue include:
- High fever, up to 105ºF
- Severe muscle and joint pain
- Severe headache
- A red rash that starts on the chest, back or stomach and spreads to the limbs and face
- Pain behind the eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
Some patients with dengue fever go on to develop Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, a more severe form of the viral illness. This form of dengue fever can be life-threatening and may progress to dengue shock syndrome, the most severe form of the disease. Symptoms include
- Haemorrhage (evidence of bleeding) in the body.
- Petechiae (purple splotches, or small red spots, blisters under the skin)
- Bleeding in the nose or gums
- Black stools,
- Easy bruising
What is Chikungunya?
The word, ‘Chikungunya’ means ‘to walk bent’. Fever and joint pain are significant symptom of chikungunya. The Chikungunya virus is predominantly transmitted by a bite from an infected female “Aedes aegypti” commonly called the ‘yellow fever mosquito’. While generally it is not considered contagious, in some rare cases, Chikungunya virus can be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood.
Symptoms of Chikungunya:
While the incubation period of chikungunya disease is between 2-6 days, the symptoms usually start appearing 4-7 days post-infection. Other classic symptoms include:
- High fever (40 °C or 104 °F) which typically lasts for two days and then ends abruptly
- Viral rashes on the trunk or limbs
- Joint pains affecting multiple joints (for as long as two years)
- Other non-specific viral symptoms such as headache, loss of appetite, etc.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito-borne blood disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans via the bites of infected Anopheles mosquito. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then to red blood cells.
Symptoms of Malaria
Symptoms of Malaria is divided into two categories: Uncomplicated Malaria and Severe Malaria.
In uncomplicated malaria, the following symptoms progress through hot, cold, and sweating stages:
- Sensation of cold with chills or shivering
- Headaches, fever and vomiting
- Sometimes, seizures occur
- Sweats, followed by a return to normalcy (in temperature) with fatigue or tiredness
If laboratory or clinical evidence points towards dysfunction of vital organ, it is severe malaria.
Severe malaria symptoms include:
- Fever and shivers/chills
- Impaired consciousness
- Respiratory distress and deep breathing
- Multiple convulsions
- Signs of anemia and abnormal bleeding
- Evidence of vital organ dysfunction and clinical jaundice
Tips to Prevent Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Malaria
While the Aedes mosquito (also referred to as ‘daytime’ feeder’) that spreads Dengue Fever and Chikungunya tends to be more active during the day, Anopheles mosquito that transmits Malaria bites mostly at night. Therefore, the most important measure that can be taken against these diseases is trying to avoid mosquito bites during the day as well as at the night. Other preventive measures include:
- Cover your arms and legs
- Wear light colored clothes
- Avoid traveling to areas with outbreaks of any one or all these three diseases
- Use mosquito repellents
- Fix mesh on windows and doors of the house to keep mosquitoes out
- Use mosquito nets over the beds to avoid bites
- Eliminating the sites that breed mosquitoes by emptying stagnant water from buckets, flower pots and barrels.
- Keeping the surrounding areas free from garbage
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