Dengue Fever

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A new NRDC report released today finds that outbreaks of dengue fever - a mosquito-borne disease from the tropics - may be possible in Ohio.

Recent data shows that 20 counties in Ohio now harbor the foreign mosquito species known to transmit the dengue fever virus.

In the United States, the number of physician-reported cases of the disease has more than doubled in the past decade. Nearly 4,000 cases of imported and locally-transmitted dengue were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1995 and 2005, and when the Texas-Mexico border region is included, the number jumps to 10,000 during that time.

International rates of dengue infection have increased 30-fold in the last 50 years, to an estimated 50 to 100 million infections, a half-million hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths annually in more than 100 countries. In Mexico, Central and South America more than 900,000 dengue fever cases were reported in 2007.

Many factors may be contributing to the rise in dengue fever, including increasing international travel and trade, densely-populated communities living in poverty in many countries including the United States, and the effects of global warming. Researchers project that because of global warming, in the next 75 years 3 billion additional people will become at risk for the disease across the globe.

Known as "Breakbone Fever" because of its classic symptoms, dengue is characterized by agonizing aching in the bones, joints and muscles, a pounding headache, pain behind the eyes, a high fever and a classic rash. There is no cure or vaccine against the virus, only preventative and supportive care.

Both large-scale and individual actions can reduce the spread of dengue fever. Individuals can protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illnesses by wearing loose-fitting long sleeves and pants when outdoors and using DEET (not more than 30%) on exposed skin when the bugs are biting. Individuals can also make sure windows and doors have tight fitting screens and that they don't leave open containers of water in or near their homes. Further precautions should also be taken while traveling to countries where dengue fever is already established.