kdiehlThere is perhaps nothing more terrifying to a parent than the possibility of their child contracting some ominous-sounding, exotic, "deadly" disease.  Hence the current media frenzy of Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Chikungunya and the like.  First and foremost, remember these are rare diseases.  The likelihood that you will be involved in a car accident is much higher than contracting any of these diseases.  Secondly, they are caused by viruses.  No antibiotics are indicated.  Fever and pain control, hydration and rest are the mainstays of treatment should your child be diagnosed.  Thirdly, prevention is most important.  These are mosquito borne illnesses.  There is no person to person transmission.  Use of insect repellents and protective clothing affords protection against disease transmission.

But if you really want some knowledge about each of these diseases:

Dengue fever produces fever, severe muscle and joint pain, rash, nausea and vomiting.  It's also called "bone break" fever due to the severe pain.  It's usually seen in the Caribbean, but noted in the Florida Keys last year.  It is transmitted by the Asian Tiger mosquito and treatment is symptomatic. Rest, fluids and using medications to control the fever to keep the patient more comfortable.  The incubation period, the period of time between when someone gets the virus in their system until they start to show symptoms of illness,  is 2-7 days after being bitten.

West Nile has been diagnosed in all 50 states, but the majority of infections are asymptomatic or have no symptoms.  Only 20% of patients infected develop fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness.  The majority of severe complications occurs in adults over 60 years old.  West Nile symptoms can last days to weeks and again, it is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.  The incubation period is usually 2-6 days, although it can be as long as 14 days.  Treatment again is supportive.

Chikungunya is another extremely rare virus with symptoms similar to Dengue fever.  It is also transmitted by a mosquito and treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

The "takeaway" from all of this is:
1. These are rare diseases.  In medical lingo, they are "zebras". You see more "horses" than "zebras"
2. Prevention is the key.  Use of long sleeved clothing and mosquito repellent with DEET afford the best protection.

Now relax and enjoy the rest of the summer.

By Karen Diehl, CPNP, CLC