EXCLUSIVE: Nail biting situation: Experts tell you how to differentiate between Covid and dengue
High fever, killing headaches, and a body that aches like a bad sore, and you are left wondering whether it is COVID-19 or dengue. And rightly so, because who would like to take a chance given the current situation. However, doctors say, if you have the eye for it you may be able to differentiate between the two.
Dr. Bela Sharma, Additional Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, tells you that a viral infection such as dengue and coronavirus share similarities, however, one must note their differences. “COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs, or sneezes. Dengue, on the other hand, is a mosquito borne disease. However, the two may have similar symptoms in the start. Patients with chronic illness such as heart diseases are at risk for severe complications from the diseases,” says Sharma.
While dengue warning signs are inclusive of vomiting and mucosal bleeding, COVID-19 warning signs include difficulty in breathing, fall in oxygen levels and persistent high-grade fever that lasts for more than seven days. “The incubation period of dengue is between 3-10 days whereas COVID-19 may extend to 14 days. COVID-19 also has additional symptoms such as loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea and congestion or runny nose, among others which are not associated with dengue,” explains Sharma.
The cause of worry, however, is the rising cases of dengue in the country. “The dengue crisis is worrisome. Hence, those with dengue need to be vigilant. Try to stay hydrated by drinking enough water, wear full-sleeved clothes, use mosquito repellents and nets to avoid mosquito bites. In case of symptoms such as high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, joint, and muscle pain, consult the doctor on an immediate basis. Do not self-medicate, and do as the doctor says,” says Dr. Pritam Moon, Consultant physician, Wockhardt Hospital Mira Road.
Do not just stop the medication abruptly or skip it. Take complete bed rest, keep the surroundings clean, and maintain good personal hygiene. Go for blood tests when required in order to check the platelet counts and hematocrit (a test to measure red blood cells). Dengue symptoms can overlap with Covid symptoms. Hence, a proper diagnosis of the underlying condition is important.
The first line of defence against dengue, Moon says, is to avoid accumulation of water in your surroundings or at home.
However, if you are down with dengue, and want to recover fast, you will have to eat a well-balanced diet. “Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid spicy, oily, junk, processed, canned, and sugary foods. You need to opt for coconut water, broccoli, spinach, Kiwi, oranges, pomegranate, beans, lentils, porridge, chickpeas, apples, papaya leaf juice to increase platelet count, vegetable juices, whole grains, soups, pumpkin, yogurt, nuts, turmeric and fenugreek. All the above foods will help you boost your immunity,” explains Moon.
Ginger water, he says, can help tackle nausea and vomiting. “While you will have to stay away from burgers, pasta, pizza, cake, pastry, biscuits, noodles, chips, namkeens, and desserts as these things can weaken the immunity and delay recovery. Even caffeinated beverages, carbonated drinks, smoking, and alcohol should be strictly avoided,” advises Moon.
For those who are wondering if the low count of COVID-19 cases is a result of the spread of other diseases like dengue and Nipah, Moon says, that is not the case here. “Dengue, malaria cases are on the rise in the country as the majority of people are suffering from them. But, the receding cases of COVID-19 can be owing to the vaccination. People are coming forward and getting jabbed. This is helping in improving the situation. Currently, the COVID situation in India is under control, but we shouldn’t ignore other problems like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and leptospirosis,” opines Moon.
Sharma opines that even as the number of coronavirus cases have started to reduce in the country, India is far from being anywhere near the finish line with regards to the pandemic. “There has been a fear of a rise in the number of viral diseases such as the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, and dengue around Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, it has become a routine for areas in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to report cases of “the mystery fever”. With the confirmed cases of the viral infections increasing, attention might have been moved towards them amidst the pandemic. However, COVID-19 is still an infection of concern, and one that should not be ignored. Therefore, we must continue adhering to COVID appropriate behaviour,” concludes Sharma.