Healthy Living

Is Dengue Fever Fatal?

Dengue is fatal only when the ailment is misdiagnosed or medical care is avoided

Is Dengue Fever Fatal?

Dengue fever is a very severe form of viral fever that impacts humans in all age groups, wherever conditions favor the breeding of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. This aggressive insect is the main vector that carries and transmits the virus.


Fatality is possible if dengue symptoms escalate to extremes

Dengue brings a triad of distress signals which include fever, pain and skin rash, but the majority of people infected manage to stave off the worst side effects within days of its onset. Fatality is a distinct possibility only if the fever graduates to a more serious condition called the Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF). 

Dengue fever does not need to be fatal, if the patient is able to access proper medical care, or is able to source good home-based preventive care.

The symptoms of typical dengue fever are controllable and manageable

Following infection and a five day incubation period, the following symptoms grow in intensity:

  • Raging fever which is a direct result of the body’s immune response to the virus.
  • A chronic headache and aching behind the eyes.
  • Acute, almost arthritic aching in limbs, joint pains and muscles become sore and cramped.
  • Increasing gastrointestinal problems like bloating, nausea, vomiting and painful motion.
  • The appearance of rashes resembling measles outbreak, and red bloody spots in skin (petechiae).
  • Bleeding from the nose, (mucosal lining) mouth, (gums) and extremities, and appearance of blood in urine and stools.

Normally, the symptoms last only as long as the fever persists, and symptoms abate once fever recedes. Proper medical care plays a crucial role in recovery at this stage.


How secondary infection and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever increases the risk of fatality

In dengue, the fever may show a strong tendency to peak twice within the space of four to five days. Aggressive preventive and supportive medical care at this juncture ensures that the fever doesn’t recur.

Withdrawing medical aid at the time the initial fever subsides, may expose the patient to other strains of the same viral group.  The new virus could provoke a more dangerous disease – the Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever.    

Other than symptoms typical of dengue fever, DHF is mainly characterized by the following lethal signs:

  • Acute dehydration of the body following the continuous loss of blood through stretched and weakened blood vessel walls.
  • Near total devastation of blood platelets as a result of the body oozing blood from orifices including the eyes, nose, mouth and anus.
  • Severe breathing difficulty following the accumulation of fluid within the lungs which start showing signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Severe edema (swelling) in tissues leading to organ failure, particularly of the liver and kidneys.

If severe dengue symptoms remain untreated or neglected, death by dehydration and bleeding is the most probable outcome. However, fatality risk diminishes significantly when chronically ill patients access emergency medical care.

Prompt medical assistance boosts the survival rate of DHF and DSS patients

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, if treated symptomatically, lowers the chances of the disease progressing to the more severe Dengue Shock Syndrome. Treatment options that have yielded good results are:

  • Giving oral and intravenous rehydration therapy for fighting dehydration.
  • Platelet replacement therapy through nutritious food intake, and by infusion of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) to stabilize the blood and stem bleeding.
  • Spraying bronchodilators through nebulizers to dilate the lung’s air passages and assist breathing.
  • Closely monitoring blood pressure and kidney and liver function, besides taking note of daily variation in hematocrit ratios, platelet count, and WBC count.