A Senior Medical Officer of Health is urging Barbadians to know the symptoms of dengue fever as well as the warning signs for severe dengue, the potentially fatal state of the mosquito-borne illness.
The call has come from Dr. Leslie Rollock, who is responsible for infectious diseases, environmental matters and surveillance in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Dr. Rollock explained that dengue fever is caused by any one of four dengue virus (DENV) serotypes or strains.
She said each DENV strain could produce mild to severe illness. According to research, persons with healthy immune systems can only get each strain once.
“Dengue infection, regardless of the type, is indistinguishable. It may be asymptomatic, which means the person has no symptoms. But if it is symptomatic, most people would experience in the initial phase high fever; headache; pain, especially behind the eyes and on movement of the eyes; joint pains; skin rash, either all over the body or just over the joints; and upset stomach, which could lead to vomiting or diarrhoea,” she outlined, adding that symptoms usually lasted two to seven days.
If individuals continued to deteriorate after that, Dr. Rollock said, it was critical to look for the warning signs of severe dengue. Although less than one per cent of persons with severe dengue will die, she emphasised that early detection and access to proper supportive medical care could save lives.
“When the fever starts to go down [in the initial phase], then the person feels worse.
“They get abdominal pain; if they had vomiting, it gets worse, and they may notice that their gums are bleeding. Their appetite may not return and they may get evidence that fluid is collecting in areas of the body, those are signs to go to your doctor and for your doctor to take note of for admission, because the warning signs may predict severe disease,” she explained.
The Senior Medical Officer of Health added that while anyone could get severe dengue, children and young persons were usually most affected during an outbreak.
“Even though a person may get the severe disease, they may not die if they are managed through that period, which is 24 to 48 hours in a hospital,” she said.
Persons with severe dengue may experience dehydration and excessive bleeding for which they would need urgent clinical care.