News / Health

Experts Troubled by New Dengue Outbreaks in Western Hemisphere

Vidushi Sinha
Dengue fever - a tropical disease once confined mainly to Africa and Asia - has become a growing problem in the Americas.  So far, there is no drug to treat the mosquito-borne viral disease or any vaccine to prevent the infection.  Public health experts say it has the potential to become a global health problem - more costly and difficult to control than malaria.

“Dengue had been eliminated in this hemisphere for quite a while but unfortunately it got reintroduced and has been generally growing since then," said Donald Shepherd.

Donald Shepherd spoke to VOA via Skype.  He and his colleagues studied the economic burden of dengue fever on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory).  Shepherd says the figure they came up with was staggering.

“The economic cost of dengue averages $40 million per year," he said. "For the moderate size that Puerto Rico is it’s a substantial amount of money.”

Dengue is a viral infection spread by the bite of a small, stripe-bellied mosquito called Aedes aegypti. Outbreaks commonly rise after heavy summer rains, which create stagnant-water breeding areas for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.  

Dengue can cause high fevers, headaches, severe muscle and joint pain, lack of appetite and fatigue.  And in many parts of Asia and Africa where it is still endemic, the disease can prove fatal:

“A nasty feature of dengue is something that microbiologists call 'antibodies enhancement' - such that if you have had one of the dengue serotypes and then you get another one then the second one is a more severe illness than it would have been the first time," said Shepherd.

Experts say people can usually recover from these severe bouts of dengue, even with no drugs to fight the virus.  But they need to receive good medical care, especially close monitoring of bodily fluids, and proper diagnosis of dengue's high fever, -- which can be mistakenly blamed on more common causes.

Dr. Dan Stinchcomb is the chief executive officer of Inviragen, which is developing a vaccine against the multiple dengue viruses.  He says developing a safe vaccine has been a significant challenge.

“Because dengue is a problem that affects different ages throughout the world.  In Southeast Asia it's mainly a childhood disease, but in Central and South America and other parts of Asia it can still affect adults as well," said Stinchcomb.

Experts say because the cost of treating dengue victims is so high, it's important that affected countries strengthen their traditional disease surveillance, prevention, and control efforts - until a drug or vaccine is available to combat the virus.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mike harrison from: london, UK
May 18, 2012 5:50 AM
DENGUE FEVER ERADICATION
It is not just about fogging or spraying………………..
Through my company's work with natural mosquito repellents I am very aware of the dangers associated with dengue fever and am rather surprised at some of the medical professions lack of diligence to make sure the patient cannot spread the disease. The issue is that whilst the patient is running with a temperature in the febrile stage he or she is acting as a reservoir of the Dengue virus and when bitten at this stage by another mosquito then the disease spreads. An air conditioned room will keep away most mosquitoes, however without that luxury one must protect the patient AT ALL TIMES with repellent. The problem is that the active chemical ingredient DEET used in most repellents is not to be used too often or over applied, particularly to younger patients.The other problem is that DEET products tend to be rather oily, somewhat harsh on the skin and certainly uncomfortable to 'wear' all day -and it has to be all day for the Dengue fever carrier - Aedes aegypti - is active all day and not just at dawn and dusk as with most species of mosquito. The answer is a repellent proven effective against Aedes aegypti that can safely and comfortably be worn all day with absolutely no harmful chemical build up. You may well have guessed my company has such a product and we would love to think we could help stop the spread of the disease from the patient whilst also being the first line of defence for the nursing staff. It seems strange to us that even the World Health Organisations advice on caring for Dengue fever patients does not include the simple advice of protecting the patient from further bites, which of course is where the mosquito will get more 'ammunition' for its sometimes deadly work.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid