During dengue epidemics, emergency physicians face large numbers of patients with acute febrile illness. Triage algorithms and appropriate reporting systems are useful to manage patients and prioritize resources. We identify possible adaptations to these systems to improve the management of patients during epidemics.Methods:
In a prospective observational study in the adult emergency department (ED) of a tertiary care hospital, we enrolled all patients with febrile illness and a confirmed diagnosis of dengue (ribonucleic acid identification). We then retrospectively classified cases according to the initial clinical presentation at the ED.Results:
We enrolled 715 patients (332 male patients), aged 14 to 91 years (median 35 years). Severe illness was documented in 332 cases (46.4%) and was mostly caused by serotype 2, or a secondary infection of any serotype. Severe forms included dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome (104/332; 31.3%), severe bleeding (9/332; 2.7%), and acute organ failure (56/332; 16.9%). The other patients with severe illness (171/332; 51.5%) presented with symptoms of presyncope, intense weakness, prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms, and hypotension. This presentation was common during epidemics and appeared to be associated with dehydration and electrolyte loss that improved markedly within 24 hours with saline solution infusion. This group did not have evidence of plasma leakage, although similar features were observed in patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome.Conclusion:
Dengue has a wide range of clinical presentations in the ED. Many patients who appear seriously ill on presentation will respond to intravenous fluids.