(also known as “Break Bone Fever”)
For most Americans, Dengue Virus isn’t the primary concern when you go to the lake or the river for a relaxing afternoon with the family. You may be more familiar with a few related diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Malaria.
All of these diseases fall into a category knows as Arboviruses, or arthropod-borne viruses. Simply put, this means that they are passed into humans by biting insects such as mosquitoes. According to one study done recently, 56% of the United States now has mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Dengue virus.
As you could guess from its nickname, Dengue fever is not to be taken lightly. Symptoms can vary from anything as light as influenza-like symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, and vomiting) to the more common severe and intense headaches, muscle- and joint-pain. A hemorrhagic rash with bright red pinpoint spots can develop later into the illness, first appearing on the lower limbs and chest and eventually spreading out to the entire body.
Classic Dengue fever lasts 2-7 days, with a second fever normally occurring at the trailing end of the disease. Having the virus once will not, unfortunately, protect you from getting it a second, third, or even fourth time as there are four versions of the virus. In fact, a first bout with the virus can cause the body to over-react to a second bout and cause a worse reaction.
As there is no vaccine to Dengue at the present, prevention seems to be the best method of control. The same steps we take in malaria-prevention apply with Dengue: eliminating areas of standing water close to home, work, and recreational areas and control of the mosquito population through natural means and pesticides will help to keep this virus from taking hold and becoming a permanent part of life in the our communities. As always, don’t forget to wear insect repellant when you’re going to be outside and keep citronella or other repellants nearby in group settings. If you’re going to be working in areas that could possibly have mosquito populations, try to wear clothing that covers your neck, arms, and legs to minimize areas of your body that can be bitten.
For further information, please consult the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/dengue/ or Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengue_fever and, as always, your personal physician if necessary.