The Dengue Fever

The dengue virus is an infamous pathogen that causes dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever in both adults and children who have been exposed to mosquitoes or live in areas where the disease is endemic. According to Price (2013), dengue virus has been considered as an international problem since the Second World War. Today more than 100 countries are considered as endemic, with the virus infecting between 50 and 530 million people every year. There are cases when the disease is mild and even asymptomatic, but other people suffer severe strains of the infection that cause complications that may include dangerously low blood pressures. Since the beginning of this year, Japan has been grappling with high levels of dengue fever outbreaks. Considering that there is still no vaccine or direct medication for this virus, the number of outbreaks is alarming to say the least. According to WHO (2009) estimates, China alone has had over 20,000 infections while Malaysia, Japan, and Taiwan are also seeing new records being set in terms of the number of infections and deaths from this pathogen. Japan is experiencing the first outbreak of the disease, implying that the virus is somewhat changing its mechanisms to attack even in areas where it was previously unheard of. There is a need to understand the dengue virus and measures taken to solve its mysteries in the scientific world in terms of vaccines and treatment. This paper examines the dengue virus, how the virus spreads, and how it can be combated. In addition, the paper analyses the extent to which the dengue virus has spread.

A lot of attention has been given to viruses like flu, HPV, HIV, Zika and Ebola, and yet the dengue virus is not only endangering a lot of lives but also grinding national economies to a standstill owing to the high rates of infection.

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The Problem

National Health Service (2014) confirms that similar to other virus, the dengue virus has proven to be problematic to scientists when it comes to finding a vaccine or a direct treatment mechanism. Currently, the only options available for countering this virus are the supportive treatments for the symptoms. It can thus be stated that the dengue fever is one of the diseases that continues to puzzle scientists as has been seen with other viruses like HIV and Ebola. The flu and HPV viruses were also previously evasive, but in the end their mysteries were solved, and thus vaccines were made for them. They may, however, be a challenge given that they both do not have a direct treatment regime and are thus tackled through their symptoms. Understanding the dengue virus may help to understand why over 100 countries have been highlighted as endemic areas for the dengue disease. These countries may have factors that make the virus thrive, and understanding these factors may be important to finding a solution to this problem. WHO (2009) reckons that people have been warned time and again to minimize exposure to mosquitoes, and yet the number of daily infections is over 1000 for China alone. This implies that there is more to the story, with more than 1000 people in China being exposed to mosquitoes each day.

Literature Review

WHO (2009) establishes that there are four different serotypes that cause dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever or a dengue shock syndrome. The authors further argue that scientists have made a considerable progress with respect to understanding the dengue virus. Each serotype has allowed for significant understanding of the virus in terms of reactogenicity and immunogenicity. As a result, scientists are becoming more aware of how to counter the virus. There are no direct medicines, treatment regimes, or certified vaccines in the market yet, but this is all work in progress. With the increasing number of outbreaks, this may be a good time to start testing the existing vaccines and improving their efficiency to limit the number of new infections and deaths from dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever, and a dengue shock syndrome.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), present the dengue case as pivotal in public health settings considering the high infection rates of the virus across the globe with focus on the endemic areas. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) estimation, more than 2.5 billion people around the world are at risk of being infected with the dengue virus. Some of the 100 endemic countries like Japan have no history of the disease, thus implying that its geographical distribution is also in question. The cases of child mortality due to this virus have consistently been on the rise in Asian and South American countries. On the other hand, Africa was not reporting any cases of the fever despite being in a region that would otherwise have the highest infection rates owing to the weather. This disease has a severe impact on the economy, thus making it a great social concern as far as public health is involved. This makes the subject of the dengue virus interesting even to the national policy makers in various countries within and outside the endemic areas.

Aedes Mosquitos Transmit the Dengue Virus

Methodology

The study performed a content analysis with special focus on medical journals and databases. The key words included dengue fever, dengue outbreak, and dengue virus as well as dengue vaccine. The objective was to find out as much information about the progress being made with respect to the war on the dengue virus as possible. Once the sources had been identified, the researchers had to read them through thoroughly to find any useful information that may have not been captured before. The dengue fever is a specifically sensitive topic today owing to the rising number of infections and risk factors. Thus, finding material on the topic was not as difficult as it may have been previously.

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Findings

There are many well-known facts about the dengue disease. First, as evidenced by Bupa (2014), a viral borne disease has the potential of escalating into fatal cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. This means that the disease may be as mild as a bout of flu but has the ability to develop into a more serious condition that could be fatal. The challenge is thus in identifying that the patient is not suffering from flu but rather an onset of the dengue fever. In China today, people reporting to health facilities with flu-like symptoms are no longer allowed to go home as easily. They are rather monitored for some time to ensure that they are not infected with the dengue virus. The country’s public health sector is, however, under so much pressure owing to the high and fast rising numbers of new infections in the country and its neighborhood.

Ramos et al. (2008) state that another fact is that the cases of dengue fever are consistently on the increase, and thus something needs to be done with respect to vaccines and direct treatment. Reports by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) have indicated that there is far more extensive understanding of the disease today than there was in the 1960’s, and yet the virus seems more dangerous today with over half of the world’s population being at risk. Ordinarily, it is expected that with the flow of time the answer to this puzzle will be found, but it seems that currently the world’s situation with respect to this virus remains desperate.

The scientists have made a lot of progress in getting to understand the four existing serotypes of the dengue virus. However, this knowledge does not seem to be of any help to the masses. The number of new infections today is simply unheard of. Given the high spread rates, and considering that it is vector borne, there may be more to this pattern than the eye meets. The idea of eliminating mosquito habitats and limiting exposure to their bites has been spread far and wide to prevent infection with the virus. Nevertheless, the world is experiencing a dengue fever outbreak, thus implying that mosquitoes are becoming too many, widespread, and advanced in terms of their intelligence.

National Health Service (2014) establishes that the geographic distribution of the dengue virus is somewhat changing as well. Initially, Central and South America as well as some parts of Asia were the major areas in terms of endemic dengue fever. Nevertheless, today it can be seen that countries like Japan are also suffering an outbreak despite not having a history of the disease. When an individual from North America visits a place in South America and leaves with a dengue infection, he or she is likely to cause a dengue outbreak in North America upon the return. This is because infected individuals act as carriers and multipliers for the virus, infecting uninfected mosquitoes that bite them and thus spreading the virus even further. This is possibly why there are a lot of new infections in urban and semi-urban settlements, where there are a lot of people and most of them travel a lot. Initially, this was not considered impossible, and thus people were only warned about mosquitoes in areas where dengue fever was considered as an endemic occurrence.

According to Shepherd (2014) analysis, only 2.5% of those infected with the virus actually die. This means that the survival rate of dengue fever is quite high although statistics indicate that infants are not as lucky in fighting this virus. With a higher infection rate amongst young children, the dengue virus is a serious challenge to the body system, thus making it impossible to ascertain their survival after infection. The need to provide supportive treatment is further challenged by the patient’s age and size whereas in some cases the medication may be too strong for an infant. The low mortality rates for this disease do not however make it any better, as the number of infected individuals is also quite high. For example, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) estimates, China has over 20,000 new infections, and 500 of these patients are likely to die from the infection. This is not exactly a small number given that livelihoods and breadwinners are likely to perish in the process, leaving a lot of families destitute.

Discussion

The dengue virus is a real challenge today, possibly more than it was way back in 1779. Knowing what it is, how it is spread, and how to deal with it through supportive treatment has not made its case any better for the world’s population in the year 2014. The risk is only increasing, considering that people need to travel from one country to another, and once infected they would infect the mosquitoes in another country which possibly is not in the endemic areas for the dengue virus. The fact that globalization makes it easy for people to move across borders implies that the disease can continue spreading into new areas without being managed or limited effectively. The fact that most of the infections can be managed effectively does not make the disease less dangerous. Moreover, the higher the number of new infections is, the higher the number of fatalities appears.

With the help of the WHO, most of the affected countries are upgrading their equipment and skills in managing the disease. However, more needs to be done in terms of finding a vaccine and direct treatment. Price (2013) states that the supportive treatment only helps in cases when the fever is caught in time, and the direct treatment would be useful in restoring hope for those in the severe hemorrhagic stage of the dengue fever. In addition, some of the endemic areas are below the poverty line where access to medical attention is not easy to come by. Therefore, it may be a good idea to speed up the invention of a subsidized vaccine or a direct treatment, which would improve the chances of survival for the infected people within such communities. More attention thus needs to be allocated to this virus as the risk keeps piling up, and there might come a time when the entire world’s population is at risk.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The dengue virus affects both infants and adults, with a higher survival rate for the latter. As a viral infection, the management of the disease is somewhat elusive in terms of direct treatment or vaccination opportunities. Additionally, people can only stay away from mosquitoes and hope for the scientists to get a break through. The challenge, however, is that the risk for the disease is increasing consistently thus putting more and more people in a position to catch the virus and even spread it further. While the scientists work overtime to formulate a functional vaccine and direct treatment, it may be a good idea for the general public to stay informed of the disease and its risk factors so that they can seek medical attention soon enough and avoid getting into dengue shock syndrome or hemorrhagic fever.

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