- Both dengue and COVID-19 are viral illnesses and have some common symptoms like high fever, body ache, fatigue and headache
- Rashes, swollen lymph glands, and vomiting are exclusive to dengue while coronavirus can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, cough, and diarrhea
- It is imperative to distinguish between the two infections so that the appropriate medical care can be given
Dengue, a mosquito-borne illness, is an integral part of the monsoon season. In tandem with the global COVID-19 pandemic, dengue is a double whammy as it is difficult to distinguish between the two.
Both dengue and COVID-19 are viral illnesses and have the same primary symptoms of high fever and severe body aches. There have been a few recent reports of patients with COVID-19 also testing positive for dengue. Dengue is a vector-borne illness transmitted by the bite of Aedes mosquito.
It is important to understand the symptoms of the two infections, to avoid confusion and offer the appropriate medical attention.
Similarities Between Dengue and COVID-19
The initial symptoms of both these infections are similar and overlap each other. These are, high fever, headaches, muscle, and joint pain, and fatigue.
But one should remember that dengue is a seasonal disease and COVID-19 can be asymptomatic in many. But both these infections can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
How to Spot the Difference Between Dengue and COVID-19
Apart from the similarities, certain tell-tale signs of dengue help to differentiate between the two infections. Symptoms like vomiting, swollen glands, and rashes are exclusive to dengue and rare in coronavirus.
Severe cases of dengue can cause symptoms like severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, and blood in vomit.
In the case of coronavirus, instead of experiencing vomiting, infected people infected experience diarrhea. Initially, fever, cough, and shortness of breath were the only reported symptoms of COVID-19, but other symptoms like runny nose, congestion, diminished sense of smell and taste were also added to the list.
Coronavirus may be asymptomatic in some people, and they may not develop symptoms for a long time.
Both infections can be harmless in some people while can turn fatal in others, depending on their level of immunity and associated co-existing conditions. If fever persists for more than three days, it is recommended to consult a doctor, without delay.
Why is Dengue Seasonal?
Dengue is a vector-borne illness, transmitted via infected mosquitoes. Dengue is seasonal because these mosquitoes thrive in unclean, and stagnant water. Monsoons can lead to water-logging due to unplanned urban settlements and rapid urbanization, which become exclusive breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. Despite several precautionary measures taken to prevent mosquito breeding such as fogging, disinfectant (DDT)sprays, mosquito repellents, avoiding water stagnation and other measures, it has become difficult to completely eradicate the disease.
Early diagnosis and timely treatment is the key to keep dengue at bay during the times of COVID-19.
What Measures can be Taken?
People can take certain precautions at home in order to prevent the spread of dengue virus:
- Use mosquito nets while sleeping and apply mosquito-repellents on exposed body-parts
- Close doors and windows before sunset as mosquitoes are usually more active during and post-sunset
- Wear clothes that fully cover your body
- Keeping environment clean and get rid of stagnant water
- Clean and mop your house every day with disinfectants
- Eat immune-boosting foods to cope with infections
- Use insect spray containing pyrethroids during evenings and nights
- Maintain social distance
- Practice hand-hygiene
- Avoid unnecessary travel
- Wear mask when venturing out
- Follow self-quarantine when symptoms appear
According to the 2016-2019 data, India reports about 100,000 to 200,000 confirmed cases of dengue each year. The dengue season may aggravate the COVID-19 situation as both viruses may supplement each other.
The simultaneous infection of either of the two can be fatal, especially when the immune system is weakened by either one of the infection. Each disease can make the other more complicated to deal with.
Our hospitals may not have the required infrastructure and the necessary equipment to deal with the dual crisis. Hospitals are facing a shortage of beds with the looming coronavirus crisis and may not have enough beds for dengue patients.
Any patient with a three-day history of fever would need to undergo a test for dengue and another for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Though both the viruses infect via different pathways and different cell types, they would overlap in physiological effects and immunological responses.
This will make each infection worse than when either infection occurs alone
Currently, there are no vaccines available for either and no specific antiviral to treat them. The aforesaid reasons make the occurrence of dengue during Covid-19 very fatal, and therefore all precautions have to be taken.