Dengue is widespread in South-East
Asia, the Indian sub-continent, the Pacific region as far south as Queensland
in Australia, the Caribbean Islands, northern and eastern parts of Central
and South America, to a lesser extent the Middle East and sporadically
in Africa. Outbreaks are common and often occur after the rainy seasons
when mosquitoes breed more actively.
The cause is an virus spread by the
Aedes aegypti species of mosquitoes which predominantly bite during
After an incubation phase of 3-8 days
there is usually a sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle and joint pains.
A rash may develop. Within a few days the illness usually resolves and
serious complications are uncommon. In a few cases dengue
can progress to a haemorrhagic form, with shock, which can be fatal.
There is no specific anti-viral treatment.
Symptoms like headache and fever can be treated symptomatically. Hospital
care is indicated in severe illnesses or if complications occur.
Avoid mosquito bites, use insect
repellents, and seek medical attention for feverish illness if you
have been in an area where dengue is present. A vaccine is under trial
but not yet available.
The word "dengue" is a Spanish adaptation
of the Swahili phrase "ki denga pepo", meaning "cramp-like seizure caused
by an evil spirit". It emerged during a Caribbean outbreak in 1827-1828.
The first case report dates back from
1789 and is attributed to Benjamin Rush, who coined the term "breakbone
fever" (because of the symptoms of myalgia and arthralgia). The viral etiology
and the transmission by mosquitoes were only deciphered in the 20th century.
The socioeconomic impact of World War II resulted in increased spread globally.