What Causes Death in Dengue Fever?

Mosquito biting

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection caused by the dengue virus, which is transmitted to humans primarily through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes. While most cases of dengue fever result in a mild, self-limiting illness, severe cases can occur, leading to complications and, in rare instances, death. The severe form of dengue is known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

The main factors contributing to death in severe dengue cases include:

  • Plasma Leakage: Severe dengue can cause increased permeability of blood vessels, leading to plasma leakage. This results in a decrease in the fluid component of blood, leading to hypovolemia (low blood volume). Severe plasma leakage can lead to shock.
  • Organ Failure: In severe cases, dengue can lead to organ dysfunction and failure, particularly involving the liver, heart, and circulatory system. This can be exacerbated by the reduction in blood volume and shock.
  • Hemorrhage: Dengue can cause bleeding complications, including internal bleeding and gastrointestinal bleeding. Hemorrhage can contribute to life-threatening conditions, especially if it leads to hypovolemic shock.
  • Shock: Dengue shock syndrome occurs when the patient’s blood pressure drops significantly, leading to shock. Shock is a medical emergency that requires prompt intervention.
  • Secondary Infections: In some cases, individuals with dengue may be more susceptible to secondary infections, which can complicate the clinical course and increase the risk of mortality.
  • Pre-existing Health Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, may be at a higher risk of severe outcomes from dengue.

It’s important to note that not everyone with dengue fever progresses to severe dengue, and the majority of cases are mild. Early detection, supportive medical care, and timely intervention can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with severe dengue.

Preventive measures, such as mosquito control and avoiding mosquito bites, are crucial in areas where dengue is prevalent. Seeking medical attention if symptoms worsen, especially if warning signs of severe dengue (such as persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, bleeding, and difficulty breathing) appear, is essential for prompt diagnosis and management.

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