Dengue Fever – now in the United States

Mosquito Diseases

Here in the Deep South, we have to worry about the dreaded mosquito killer. No – I’m not talking about the device you plug in outdoors that zaps the insect. Many of us have those, and we love them. I’m talking about mosquitoes that carry illnesses that can be spread to other species, including humans. Some of the mosquito diseases across the globe include malaria, yellow fever, Rift Valley Fever, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and dengue fever. I had a horse that contracted Eastern equine encephalitis, and it almost died. In fact, it was a miracle that he survived the disease with no ill effects. And, as I’m sure you know, mosquitoes also cause heartworms in dogs. Of course, not all these diseases are endemic to our region of the country. For example, I never thought I’d have to be concerned about Dengue fever unless I traveled to some third world country in Africa or to Southeast Asia or Latin America. That’s no longer true, though. In the past few years, cases of Dengue fever in the U.S have been reported. This is getting too close to home! And what’s really scary is that there’s no cure or vaccine for Dengue fever.
Dengue Fever Symptoms can include headache.
Dengue Fever Symptoms can include headache. | Source
Dengue Fever

What is Dengue fever? I’d heard of the disease before, but I didn’t pay it much attention until fairly recently. As I’ve already mentioned, dengue is spread by the mosquito. Actually, it’s spread by several species of mosquitoes – most belonging to the Aedes genus. The word is pronounced to rhyme with Ben-Gay, the arthritis cream. It can also be pronounced with a long “e” at the end. In either case, the emphasis is on the first syllable.

Even though several types of Aedes mosquitoes can spread the disease, the one we folks in the United States should be concerned with are the Aedes aegypti. A distribution map of the mosquito, based on 2006 findings, shows the species in South Georgia, South Alabama, South Mississippi, much of Louisiana, parts of Southeast Texas, and all of Florida.

Dengue is a virus. A mosquito gets the virus when it bites an infected person. Unfortunately, mosquitoes handle the Dengue virus a lot better than humans do. The infection doesn’t kill the affected insects. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to make them sick, but they don’t “get well,” either. Once a mosquito is infected, it remains infected. When the infected mosquito bites another human, that person is exposed to Dengue.
Dengue Fever transmission:
Dengue Fever Symptoms

Dengue fever symptoms can be extremely painful, and the disease can be deadly. On the other hand, most people infected have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. More severe cases might begin with a headache, chills, and fever. The fever might come and go, and it might spike to as high as 104 degrees. The affected person’s eyes and skin might redden, and a rash like the measles might appear. Pain in the lower back, loss of appetite, and weakness might be experienced. Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea can occur, especially in children. Pain, sometimes severe, can occur in the muscles and joints, which is why the disease is sometimes referred to as “breakbone fever.” Lymph nodes in the groin area and neck might be enlarged. Other symptoms of Dengue fever can include abdominal pain, lethargy, and sinus-like pain behind the eyes. People with Dengue might bruise easily, or they might experience mild nosebleeds.

Dengue fever symptoms can take from three days to two weeks to appear after being infected from a mosquito bite. At first, some infected people might think they have the flu. After a few days, the symptoms will usually lessen, and the infected person might think he’s well. This respite is short lived, in most cases. After a day or so of feeling fine, the symptoms come back with a vengeance. That’s usually the point when the rash appears, and even the palms and soles can become red and painful.
Hemorrhagic Fever

Hemorrhagic fever is a severe type of Dengue that can develop when a person has contracted one type of Dengue and is then exposed to another type of the virus. Dengue hemorrhagic fever usually begins with the same Dengue fever symptoms – headache, high fever, and a rash. It includes other symptoms, too, like profuse nosebleeds, bleeding of the gums, rapid pulse, purple blisters under the skin, cough, sore throat, and black, tarry stools that indicate internal bleeding. The patient might also spit up blood. In cases of hemorrhagic fever, blood from the veins and capillaries can escape and pass into cavities of the body. It can also negatively affect production of platelets by bone marrow, making the blood too “thin.” With the decreased amount of blood comes hypotension, and vital organs are starved of oxygen-rich blood. In such cases, the affected organs begin to shut down or be damaged. This might include the brain, the liver, the lungs, and the heart, and seizures can occur. When the circulatory system shuts down enough, shock can occur. This condition is often referred to as “Dengue shock syndrome.”