Though malaria gets all the press for it’s deadly virus, dengue is no laughing matter either. The virus is a huge problem in Indonesia, with the tropics being an ideal breeding ground for the dengue carrying mosquitoes. In fact 1/3 of the worlds population lives in areas at risk for dengue, and 400 million people are infected yearly with 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. The problem is particularly stark because the virus is pandemic prone, easily spreading from mosquito to person.

Dengue has been a prevalent problem for centuries with the earliest recording of it found in Chinese textbooks before 400AD. The first properly reported epidemic happens around 1780 and spread through Asia, Africa, and North America. Increased globalization is thought to have been the primary cause for the rapid spread of the virus. In Swahili the word ka-dinga pepo which translates to seizures caused by an evil spirit is believed to be the origin for the word dengue. Entering the modern era of globalization, and  easy travel has allowed the virus to spread far and wide.

The virus comes in 4 different strains, with symptoms usually showing 3 to 4 days after initial contact. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Bleeding from the mouth and nose
  • At it’s worst dengue can also result in death

Recover usually takes 4-7 days, though it can take up to 14 days. Once you’ve recovered from dengue you will gain an immunity from that type, and a short term immunity to the other strains. This isn’t all good news however as once you’ve had the virus once, the next infection of a different strain becomes from dangerous, and increases your risk of death.

80% of those that contract the virus will only have mild symptoms such as fever and aches with around 5% having severe symptoms such as blood plasma leakage or bleeding. Women and those with a higher body mass index are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms. The similarity of mild symptoms to flu or other viral infections can make it hard to diagnose without a blood test.

Humans aren’t the only ones that can carry the virus, other primates are also prone to infection, though humans still make up the bulk of cases. The Aedes mosquito which carries the virus is particularly food on human blood, in lieu of options however your household pets may get bitten. Animals such as cats and dogs can also carry the virus if bitten, even though they do not contract symptoms or suffer any adverse effects. The fever is only possible in humans, and primates. Mosquitoes aren’t the only method of infections, infected blood products, and organ transplants can also result in the virus. Transmission from pregnancy is also possible.

The 15th of June marks dengue awareness day, with the first held in Jakarta as the problem is extremely prevalent in Indonesia, and South East Asia. This has been especially important of late as the frequency of the virus has gotten worse recently. Research so far has only yielded partially successful vaccines, but none the less it’s a good sign and progress is steadily being made.


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