Dengue Fever Infections Soar To 390 million, Three Times Previous Estimates

Dengue Fever Infections Soar To 390 million, Three Times Previous Estimates
Researchers' estimation of dengue fever is three times higher than the World Health Organization count. Latin Americas and Asia at higher risk of contracting the tropical disease. Creative Commons

A tropical disease known as dengue fever masks its devious virus behind the Aedes mosquito in the stifling hot spots of Asia and Latin America. But a new estimation of 390 million cases every year and fast outbreaks are putting the name dengue on the World Health Organization's priority list.

An international team of researchers discovered that their numbers far surpass the estimation by WHO, which ranges between 50 million to 100 million dengue infections per year.

"Dengue is one of the few infectious diseases increasing its global spread and the number of cases annually," Jeremy Farrar, a clinician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Oxford Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, told Science Now.

"It's crucial we understand where the disease is today and have an understanding of where it may be tomorrow," Farrar added.

Dengue's symptoms start out like the flu but explodes into a high fever, headache, pain in the eyes, muscles and joints, and rashes.  The most lethal form of the virus could develop into the dengue hemorrhagic fever and compounds to the original symptoms abdominal pain, vomiting and bleeding.  According to the WHO, this causes 22,000 deaths, most of them children.

A new map outlines the at risk areas of contracting the infections based on the land's rainfall, temperature and urban development.  Seventy percent of infections were reported in Asia, where India carried half the burden, while 14 percent of the cases were reported in the Americas, half taken place in Brazil and Mexico.

Currently, there are no vaccines or treatments for the dengue, however, some scientists are hopeful. 

A study published in the The Lancet last September conducted Phase 2 clinical trials in Thailand using an experimental vaccine called CYD-TDV on 4,002 children between the ages 4 and 11.  The results showed the candidate vaccine was effective in the groups that received the treatment compared to the placebo group, although it was not a significant difference.

The latest study is an approach that could help public health officials plot out the regions most at risk and establish an efficient preventative measures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eliminating outdoor water containers could reduce risks of infection because the female mosquitoes lay eggs in wet conditions.  Travelers should sleep under mosquito nets and apply an effective repellent. 

The findings were published online in Nature.

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