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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora