Wednesday, 31 May 2023

What Are the Characteristic Features of the Aedes Mosquito?

Dengue fever is common in tropical countries such as Malaysia. It is so common that every year dengue cases can be expected and a spike of cases is usually certain during the rainy season or after a flood. The Malaysia Ministry of Health reports a total of 19, 450 cases in the first two months of 2023 alone. At least 15 dengue-related cases died from dengue fever. Evidence shows that there is an increase of more than 200% dengue cases in the first two months of 2023. In Malaysia, dengue tends to peak around May to September during the dry southwest and November to March of the rainy northeast monsoon seasons. It is even predicted that this year may be the peak of a major outbreak for dengue fever.

          Over the past 5 decades, dengue cases have increased by 30-fold globally with half of the world’s population now at risk for dengue fever. In fact, dengue has been found in temperature countries such as Japan and the Mediterranean. It is estimated that 50 million cases and 20 000 deaths each year worldwide.

          Hence, it is important to understand what dengue fever is so that better prevention measures can be taken. It is also important to be knowledgeable about dengue fever to enable more people to get early medical advice when they already know symptoms suspicious of dengue infection.

          One of the facts we already know is that dengue infection is caused by the Aedes mosquitoes. Do you know that only females and infected ones are able to spread the dengue virus? The mosquito is said to be infected when it bites humans with the dengue virus circulating inside the human body. The mosquito then will spread the dengue virus by biting other humans. The question now is, are you sure you know the mosquito that bites you is an Aedes mosquito?

          The characteristic feature of the Aedes mosquito is commonly known for its black and white stripe on its body. The Aedes mosquito is also known as Asian tiger mosquito. The name itself derived from the colour of Asian white tiger with white and black colour pattern. The Aedes mosquito will have white stripe running down the centre of its head and back with banded legs. It is worth noting that if you spot this mosquito biting you, it does not directly and definitely mean you will be infected by dengue virus so there is no need to panic. Plus, sometimes dengue infection itself would not even cause any symptoms. It is estimated that 1 in 4 dengue virus infections are symptomatic. This means that 50 to 80% people infected by dengue virus do not present with any symptoms.

          Symptomatic or people with symptoms often show common symptoms that are easily suspected for a dengue fever. Common symptoms include fever that lasts from 2 to 7 days, headaches especially with pain behind the eyes (retro orbital headache), muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia) and skin rash. When a person has any of the symptoms, a person needs to get checked by a doctor , especially when a person already knows there are dengue cases reported within the neighbourhood area.

          It is important to get checked because symptoms of dengue fever may be mistaken as a person already healed from the disease. This is because symptoms of dengue may seem to go away on the 2nd to 7th day. During this time, people may be mistaken as there is no need to worry about the disappearing symptoms. Truthfully, it is during this time that a person is most vulnerable to develop severe dengue and high risk for life-threatening events. This phase is known as the critical phase. Critical phase lasts for 24 to 48 hours. It is this phase where healthcare professionals usually ask the patient suspected of dengue fever to stay in hospital for at least the first 24 hours. This helps healthcare providers to observe the patient and give immediate support should there be any complications or emergency occur.

          There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Treatment provided aims to support patients and to alleviate their discomfort. Typically, fluid replacement therapy is given to maintain hydration level and to support the patient’s circulatory system. Common medication given is paracetamol to treat fever and pain. In severe cases, blood transfusion may be given to avoid circulatory failure and in case of extremely low platelet count. Since dengue fever is caused by dengue virus, there is no need for antibiotics unless it is given to prevent secondary infection and only when prescribed by doctor under certain circumstances.

          The best way to avoid dengue fever is to take preventative measures. Prevention is always better than cure, right? There are many ways on preventing dengue such as wearing long-sleeved clothes or dresses to minimise skin exposure to mosquito bites, to clear all unwanted containers from holding water, using insect repellent and mosquito nets, use insecticides in water storage and to use special medicated lotions to keep mosquitoes away. If possible, avoid living in heavily-populated residential areas.

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