What is Dengue Fever and how is it spread?

Dengue fever is a severe, flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults. There is neither specific medicine nor vaccine for dengue fever. Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito infected with any one of the four versions of the dengue virus (and a fifth serotype of dengue has now been discovered in Malaysia). Symptoms appear in 3–14 days (average 4–7 days) after the infective bite. Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) are potentially lethal complications, particularly in children, and early clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by experienced physicians and nurses is necessary to reduce the number of fatalities.

Dengue can only be transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and only the female mosquitoes bite. The main vector is the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which originated from Africa and has spread around the world, largely in the last 50 years and, as it has done so, dengue fever has increased dramatically.

The global numbers of dengue cases have grown 30 fold in only 50 years because current control methods, relying mostly on insecticides are not adequate to control this mosquito. New approaches are needed.

Further Reading:

WHO Dengue Fever factsheet http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/#content