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Oct 2023

Dengue testing: everything you need to know

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Oct 14, 2023

Dengue is also called the break-bone viral fever that spreads through mosquito bites. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they can also be life-threatening if left undiagnosed at the right time. Most people with dengue fever may not experience any noticeable symptoms; however, high fever, headache, bodyache, and nausea are the most common symptoms.

People who develop a severe dengue infection may suffer from internal bleeding and shock, which could be life-threatening. Pregnant women, infants, and people who have had a dengue infection before are more at risk of developing a severe dengue infection. This is why it is essential to detect the infection early to avoid complications.

Usually, dengue is detected by analyzing the presence of the NS1 antigen in your blood. A dengue test, along with other tests, helps doctors find out the best treatment for you. Read on to learn more about dengue testing.

What is a dengue test?

Dengue is a viral infection that transmits from infected mosquito bites. You cannot catch dengue fever from an infected person. A dengue test helps detect the presence of the virus in the blood sample.

Are there any types of dengue tests?

There are mainly two types of dengue blood tests, such as:

1. Antibody test: Your immune system produces certain proteins, which are called antibodies, in response to viruses. The immune system makes certain types of antibodies to fight against the dengue virus. A dengue antibody test helps detect the antibodies. These tests are mainly suggested within four days after experiencing the symptoms.

2. Molecular test: These tests look for the genetic materials from the dengue virus in the blood sample. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is a type of molecular test that is used to check for dengue infection. This test is recommended to be taken within the first seven days after having symptoms for accurate test results.

When should I go for the test?

You may require a dengue test if you experience symptoms of dengue or if you live in an area where the infection is common. The symptoms usually take 7 to 10 days to show up after being infected. The common symptoms include:

  • High-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Eye pain
  • Rashes

Symptoms of a severe dengue infection may include:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Bleeding nose or gum

These symptoms usually begin 24 to 48 hours after the fever has gone. If you experience any of the mentioned symptoms, then seek medical help as soon as possible.

What happens during a dengue test?

During a dengue test, a healthcare professional will collect a small sample of blood through a vein in your arm. When the needle is inserted, you may feel a stinging sensation. After that, the blood sample will be sent to the laboratory for examination. The whole process may take only 5 minutes.

You might see a slight bruising on the area where the blood has been taken. However, bruising will go away within a day.

Do I need any preparation for the test?

Dengue testing does not require any preparation.

What do the test results mean?

The interpretation of a PCR test is as follows:

  • A positive result: A positive PCR test result indicates that the test has found genetic materials from the dengue virus in your blood sample, which mainly means that you have a dengue infection.
  • A negative result: A negative PCR test result indicates that no genetic material from the virus has been found in your blood sample, which means you do not have dengue. However, there might be a possibility that there was not enough virus in the sample for the test to find out. If you have had a negative PCR test result, your doctor may also order an antibody test for confirmation.

The interpretation of an antibody test is as follows:

  • A positive result: A positive antibody test result indicates that antibodies to dengue virus have been detected in your blood sample, which means you have a dengue infection. Your doctor might also recommend other tests to confirm the diagnosis.
  • A negative result: A negative antibody test result indicates that no antibodies have been found in your blood sample, which means that dengue is not responsible for the symptoms. However, in some cases, a negative result may indicate that you were tested earlier or that there were not enough antibodies to detect on the test. This is why your doctor might suggest taking the antibody test again after some time for confirmation.

Antibody test reports usually include reference ranges for the levels. However, consider consulting your doctor for a proper understanding of the test results.