Dengue – The Silent Killer
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection very prevalent in the Philippines.
The infection causes flu-like illness, and occasionally develops into a potentially lethal complication called severe case.
The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades.
About half of the world’s population is now at risk.
The disease is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
Severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries.
There is no specific treatment for dengue/ severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates below 1%.
Its prevention and control solely depends on effective vector control measures.
It is a mosquito-borne infection found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. In recent years, transmission has increased predominantly in urban and semi-urban areas and has become a major international public health concern.
Severe dengue (also known as Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever) was first recognized in the 1950s during its epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand. Today, severe dengue affects most Asian and Latin American countries and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children in these regions.
There are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4). Recovery from infection by one provides lifelong immunity against that particular serotype. However, cross-immunity to the other serotypes after recovery is only partial and temporary. Subsequent infections by other serotypes increase the risk of developing severe dengue.
The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. Over 2.5 billion people – over 40% of the world’s population – are now at risk from it. WHO currently estimates there may be 50–100 million infections worldwide every year.
Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific. The American, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific regions are the most seriously affected.
Severe dengue is a potentially deadly complication due to plasma leaking, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment. Warning signs occur 3–7 days after the first symptoms in conjunction with a decrease in temperature (below 38°C/ 100°F) and include: severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, blood in vomit. The next 24–48 hours of the critical stage can be lethal; proper medical care is needed to avoid complications and risk of death.
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever.
For severe dengue, medical care by physicians and nurses experienced with the effects and progression of the disease can save lives – decreasing mortality rates from more than 20% to less than 1%. Maintenance of the patient’s body fluid volume is critical to severe dengue care.
There is no vaccine to protect against dengue. Developing a vaccine against dengue/severe dengue has been challenging although there has been recent progress in vaccine development. WHO provides technical advice and guidance to countries and private partners to support vaccine research and evaluation. Several candidate vaccines are in various phases of trials.