Can you get dengue twice? Read here to find out

Updated on Aug 30, 2017 12:36 PM IST

You can get infected with dengue not once, twice but multiple times, with each subsequent infection being deadlier than the ones before.

A field worker carries out fumigation at Okhla Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi on Tuesday.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)
A field worker carries out fumigation at Okhla Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi on Tuesday.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)

Yes, dengue can strike you again and again.

You can get infected with dengue not once, twice but multiple times, with each subsequent infection being deadlier than the ones before.

Dengue is spread by the aedes egypti mosquito that also spreads chikungunya, zika and yellow fever and causes flu-like symptoms of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pains and in some cases, rashes and bleeding from gums, nose and ears, says the World Health Organization.

Amid reports of under-diagnosis and under-reporting, India has confirmed 36,635 cases and 58 dengue deaths till August 20, 2017.

ALSO READ: All you need to know about dengue spread and treatment

Kerala is the worst affected state with 16,530 cases and 28 deaths. Since dengue outbreaks peak in September and October, the numbers will shoot up over the next two months.

Subsequent infections deadlier

New research shows that more than the virus types, the differences in the virus’ antigenic properties – the ‘coats viruses wear that help the human immune system to identify and destroy them – make multiple infections possible and deadlier, found an international consortium of laboratories in 2015.

Scientists found significant antigenic differences within each dengue serotype that ensure that a person infected with one viral strain does not develop immunity against antigenically different viruses of the same type, leaving them open to repeat dengue infections.

Hospitalisation more likely

Since the first dengue infection may usually cause low fever and mild pain, it often remains undiagnosed.

You care more likely to need hospitalisation for subsequent infections. “if you’ve had dengue before, you must tell your doctor for more robust symptom management as the symptoms, including bleeding associated with dengue, are worse the second and third time,” said Dr K K Aggarwal, president, Indian Medical Association.

Dengue with no symptoms

The hurdle is that more than two in three people may not even develop symptoms the first time they get infected.

In Delhi, 768 (36.1%) of 2,125 persons tested for dengue showed past (25.5%), primary (1.88%) or secondary (8.8%) infections, reported a study in the international journal, Actatropica.

Close to two in three (63%) of the 226 newly infected cases were asymptomatic, with only 84 (37%) developing symptoms, found the study, which concluded that there are a large number of asymptomatic dengue infections in the community.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sanchita is the health & science editor of the Hindustan Times. She has been reporting and writing on public health policy, health and nutrition for close to two decades. She is an International Reporting Project fellow from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and was part of the expert group that drafted the Press Council of India’s media guidelines on health reporting, including reporting on people living with HIV.

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