Dengue, also called break-bone fever is among the world’s dominant diseases, which is caused by mosquitoes. Tens of millions of people are affected throughout the globe on an annual basis.
Approximately 50% of Earth’s population are living in at-risk regions, especially in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Dengue outbreaks have devastated the Southeast region of Asia during this year. It infected hundreds of thousands of people, killing hundreds, whilst it crippled medical care systems and governments were struggling to retain this untreatable virus.
How does the Dengue disease spread?
The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is transferring the Dengue illness. These mosquitoes flourishes in overpopulated tropical climates, whilst it is breeding in pools of standing water.
The mosquitoes contract this virus from infected people, even individuals without any symptoms. When the mosquito bites other people, it transfers the dengue virus.
From the 1970’s such infections had risen because of rising temperatures as well as irregular monsoon rains which are linked to the changing climate. These conditions provide the perfect breeding conditions for the mosquitoes.
Dengue is usually found in overcrowded areas as well as skyrocketing urbanization throughout the world, which helped the virus to prosper. This is particularly applicable to mega-city clusters such as Rio de Janeiro, Manila, Tegucigalpa and Ho Chi Minh City.
An enormous boost in international trading & traveling can also be seen as contributing factors which expanded the footprint of the Dengue virus. In this way the virus is carried across the world in a couple of hours and released within new communities.
According to professionals the large scale adoption of plastic can also play a role. Discarded takeout boxes, storage containers, plant pots, cooking urns and backyard pools collect water, an issue which became worse when dry spells occur.
A dengue specialist, Gawrie Loku Galappaththy, in the Philippines (World Health Organization) stated that with drought, the people are collecting water in containers, which is the ideal place for the dengue mosquito to breed.
What does Dengue Illness feel like?
Its dreary nickname, ‘bone fever’ originated from the disease’s severe flu-like symptoms including: high fever, severe headache, aches over the whole body, vomiting, nausea, pain behind your eyes, rash or swollen glands.
Its particularly serious as well as deadly when children are affected, specifically young girls, although scientists don’t have an explanation for this.
Contracting one of the four strains of dengue, will only provide immunity to that specific strain. This is the reason why adults living in endemic regions are many times safe, because it’s highly likely that they had Dengue before.
However, when at a later stage a different strain is picked up, which is known as a serotype, in general it causes a more serious infection compared to the first time.
No known treatment for dengue exists, therefore doctors can just assist to ease the severe symptoms of the virus. Dengue can take weeks to heal and often causes complete immobility for some patients.
Why have Dengue cases spiked in this year?
Dengue disease was mainly confined to cities located within tropical climates. However, now it is found in approximately 125 countries throughout the globe, whilst about 100 million people are infected each year.
Around 4 billion people are living in regions prone to dengue, as per the journal – Nature Microbiology.
The illness is recurrent, with dramatic outbreaks occurring every couple of years. The general opinion is that climate change is a contributing factor to the spike in Dengue cases during 2019, whilst July was the hottest, on record.
Assistant Professor, Rachel Lowe, (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) said to AFP, the extremely hot temperatures experienced this year, might have facilitated the spreading of Dengue disease. Mosquitoes are thriving in hot weather.
Various European countries had outbreaks, where Dengue once was just marginal. However, the Latin American countries which include Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua & Honduras are combating an upsurge in cases.
In which way can Dengue be restrained?
Insecticide fogging is generally used within the region of Southeast Asia to get rid of the mosquitoes. However, after a couple of days, the mosquitoes return. It is a fact that insects can rapidly become chemical-resistant.
Sanofi Pasteur, a French pharmaceutical company, developed a controversial vaccine, which got the seal of approval to be used in the European Union and 21 other countries, although it is still far from ideal.
Three doses of the Dengvaxia vaccine is required, whilst it should just be provided to people over the age of 9 years. The maximum age is different from country to country, which were priory infected by Dengue.
The Philippines was among one of the initial countries which used the Dengvaxia vaccine during 2016 in an extensive immunization programme.
However, the mismanaged roll-out of the vaccine, was blamed when dozens of children died which resulted in the banning of Dengvaxia.
Various countries are now testing the Wolbachia method and whilst its too soon to say whether this approach is working on a large-scale, its first results are quite promising.
It is a fact that mosquitoes are getting infected with the Wolbachia bacteria which occurs in a natural way.
This bacterium is dengue-resistant; now it is released for the re-population of wild mosquito colonies, in an attempt to decrease the transmission of the dengue disease.