regular-article-logo Monday, 02 October 2023

Beware the Aedes egypti

Mosquito-proof your house with netting on doors and windows so mosquitoes can't enter and breed

Dr Gita Mathai Published 05.04.23, 06:02 AM
Representational image

Representational image Shutterstock

These days many patients, young and old, are arriving at healthcare centres with high fever, 102°F or more. There may also be muscle pains and headaches. They look and feel sick.

People are worried. Is it just the flu? Has the coronavirus returned? Is it typhoid or malaria? Remember, this is the flu season.


Many patients try home remedies and dose themselves with paracetamol (recommended dose 10-15 mg/kg for children and 500mg for adults) every 4-6 hours. Taking higher doses than recommended does not bring the fever down faster; it just produces side effects. When the temperature keeps coming back for two or three consecutive days, anxious people want answers.

We are actually in the midst of a dengue epidemic. The symptoms of fever, chills, muscle pains and headache resemble that of other diseases like typhoid and malaria. A mild attack may even seem like the flu. So how do you suspect that you have dengue?

First, you have to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Not just any mosquito, but the Aedes egypti, which carries the dengue virus and passes it on when it bites. This mosquito is easily recognisable. It is beautiful in appearance. It has yellow and black striped legs like a tiger.

When it bites, it injects the dengue virus into the blood. It takes anywhere from four to seven days for high fever to appear. If the temperature is checked, it will be 102°F or more. There is headache, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. The headache in dengue is peculiar and occurs behind the eyes. The eyes of a person with dengue may also appear red and swollen due to the inflammation caused by the virus. The whites of the eyes may also appear yellowish. In fair-skinned people, a red rash may be clearly seen and can last up to seven days. The rash may be itchy. It usually starts on the chest and spreads to the arms, legs and face.

The first attack of dengue is mild and usually just passes off without treatment. However, since there are four types of dengue virus, you can get repeated attacks. The second and third attacks can be fatal.

There is no specific antibiotic or antiviral treatment for dengue. A mild illness disappears in around 10 days. Severe illness can cause a drop in platelets in the blood, bleeding from various sites and into internal organs and multi-organ failure. It may require blood transfusions and other supportive treatment. Symptoms of fatigue can last months.

Dengue can be prevented. Check for breeding grounds of mosquitoes around your house. Water that has collected in broken plastic containers and tires are the ideal home for the Aedes mosquito. Even the water trays of air coolers can act as breeding grounds. Similarly, stagnant water in vases and indoor plants attracts them. If you have a fish tank, rear a few guppies along with the ornamental fish. These fish eat mosquito larvae.

Mosquito-proof your house with netting on doors and windows so mosquitoes can't enter and breed. Remember, the Aedes egypti is a daytime mosquito. Unlike the other night-biting mosquitoes, it comes out in the daytime, bites and then hides under tables and in cupboards amid the clothes. A mosquito net at night will not help prevent dengue.

A person with dengue should, however, sit and sleep inside a mosquito net during the entire course of the illness to prevent mosquitoes from biting him or her and then other members of the household and spreading the infection. Generally, the infective period lasts up to two weeks after symptoms develop.

Instead of wearing body spray and perfume, place a few drops of citronella oil, eucalyptus oil and vanilla essence on your clothes. Then mosquitoes are less likely to bite.

The writer has a family practice at Vellore and is the author of Staying Healthyin Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write

Follow us on: