Dengue is no joke – it causes a ‘bone-breaking’ illness and fever that basically wipes you out. Several members of my Paraguayan family can attest to that.
And dengue is all over the world. It is the second most common cause of febrile illness among travelers coming back from Asia and has been reported recently in parts of the United States (Florida, Texas, Hawaii). Oh, did I mention that the mosquito vector for it exists in California? This means that dengue could also be established on the West Coast.
We have no vaccine, we cannot predict who will get severe dengue (at worst, hemorrhagic fever), nor do we know how to ameliorate the clinical severity of the disease. We’ve got so few tools in our arsenal against dengue. You SHOULD be worried.
Originally posted on World:
It doesn’t have its celebrity fundraisers, unlike AIDS. It hasn’t made the headlines in the way that bird flu or SARS have. It isn’t feared in the way that polio or TB are, and yet dengue fever can kill and is spreading around the world to an unprecedented degree.
The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that annual transmissions of the disease may breach 390 million. This year, infections are breaking records all over Asia and Latin America — from sweeping epidemics in Nicaragua to the worse outbreaks in six years in India, 20 years in Thailand and the first homegrown case in Western Australia in seven decades. Even temperate climates are now stalking grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Almost 3 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population, live in areas where there is a risk of dengue transmission. Previously known as breakbone fever, owning to the excruciating muscle and joint pain inflicted, dengue first came to the fore in Southeast Asia during World War II, when large numbers of troops were afflicted with it. Up until the 1960s the disease was largely controlled with DDT, which decimated mosquito populations. But the mosquitoes crept back after the chemical was banned for its severe side effects and ever since “we have seen an ever increasing march of the virus into new territories and new recipient populations,” says Paul Young, professor at the University of Queensland in Australia and president of the Australian Society for Microbiology, who has been researching dengue for almost three decades.