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Dengue, malaria, Covid co-infection dangerous but treatable: Experts

Health experts have advised people to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease and undergo treatment immediately after symptoms surface.

IANS | New Delhi |

Several hospitals across the country are witnessing a spike in co-infections, that is, catching Covid together with dengue or malaria. While this is dangerous and can turn fatal, it is treatable if intervention is timely, said health experts on Friday.

Dengue or malaria are vector-borne diseases spread through mosquito bites and they rise during the monsoon season. Covid, on the other hand, is caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus and transmitted mainly by droplets produced as a result of coughing or sneezing of an infected person.

“We have picked up co-infection of dengue/Covid, malaria/Covid and treated it successfully. Delayed diagnosis of co-infection with dengue/malaria and Covid can result in serious patient complications with poor outcomes. Dengue fever – like all viral fevers – can transiently weaken your immune system, hence adequate rest and good food intake are essential in recovery,” Dr Manjusha Agarwal, senior consultant and physician at Global Hospital Mumbai, told IANS.

“The management when both the disease co-exist shall be conventional management of Covid as per protocol with antiviral steroids (when indicated), oxygen and adequate hydration/nutrition. But considering the low platelet count such a patient with both the diseases should not receive any blood thinning agent as the platelet counts are already low,” added Dr Amitabh Parti, Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

A health advisory has been issued in Noida asking people to be careful about the risk of getting co-infected with Covid and the vector-borne diseases, media reports have cited.

The advisory comes after several cases of viral infections and deaths have been reported from Mathura, Mainpuri, and Firozabad districts of Uttar Pradesh in the last few weeks. Similar reports of infections have also come from Maharashtra and Telangana.

Since symptoms of both the disease groups tend to overlap, it becomes hard to identify it. As per experts, even the lab reports look similar. The investigation in both the ailments will show a drop in white cell count, however, in Covid, there is a fall in lymphocytes count whereas in dengue, there is a significant drop in platelet level count.

“Co-infection of dengue and Covid can occur and can be associated with severe disease and fatal outcome. These two illnesses have common symptoms like fever, cough, cold, body ache, headache and myalgia, and loose motion and backache,” Agarwal said.

“Even, many lab parameters are similar – like normal or low white blood cell count, low platelets and raised liver enzymes. Hence it is advisable to do RT PCR and Rapid antigen for Covid in all fever patients, a practice which we follow at our hospital,” she added.

Dengue needs serious attention, the experts noted. It can lead to serious problems including dengue haemorrhagic fever, a rare complication of dengue which presents with high fever, bleeding from the nose and gums, damage to lymph and blood vessels, liver enlargement, and failure of the circulatory system.

“The symptoms may result in excessive bleeding, shock, and death called dengue shock syndrome,” said Dr Mahendra Dadke, HoD, Internal Medicine, Jupiter Hospital, Pune.

Health experts have advised people to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease and undergo treatment immediately after symptoms surface.

Prevention from mosquito bites is imperative. Use mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, wear light coloured clothes with long sleeves if going outdoors, and avoid unnecessary water collection that can lead to breeding spots. Municipal corporations should also do robust insecticide spraying even more aggressively now for next three months is important for dengue prevention, the experts noted.