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What is Dengue Fever?

A Nepalese woman covers her face as a worker fumigates an area in an attempt to control mosquito-borne diseases in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sept. 5, 2019. The government says dengue cases has shot up by more than 65% across the country in the last week.

Breakbone fever, another name for dengue, says it all with its built-in description of a major symptom: joint and muscle pain so severe it causes contortions in many victims.

A mosquito-borne viral illness, dengue fever often begins with a severe headache and fever, then blossoms into that severe pain accompanied by vomiting, swollen glands and a rash. About 40 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where dengue infection is a risk.

Starting in the 1960s with the growing popularity of far-flung leisure travel, dengue has become a global health concern because many popular destinations such as the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands are within its realm. In the United States, it has spread infrequently with local outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Hawaii.

Spike in dengue fever cases in Southeast Asia
Spike in dengue fever cases in Southeast Asia

This year as of July 20, 2019, Cambodia has reported about 39,000 cases of dengue, compared with 3,000 for the same period in 2018, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC).

Neighboring nations Laos, Thailand and Vietnam report similar increases, according to the ECDPC. As of July 20, Laos has reported a cumulative number of 15,657 cases, compared with 2,500 cases in 2018. Thailand has declared a state of emergency after recording 43,200 cases as of August 4, compared with 28,100 for the same period in 2018. Vietnam has reported 115,186 cases of dengue as of July 20, compared with 29,000 cases for the same period in 2018.

In Bangladesh, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research reported more than 200 dengue deaths as of September 15, and more than 83,000 cases for the year; more than 50,000 of them admitted to hospitals in August alone.