When I think of Dengue Fever the last thing to cross my mind would be outbreaks in Europe or North America. Dengue is a tropical problem; found in Africa and jungles of the southern hemisphere – or so I thought. I hadn`t given Dengue much thought; aside from my perception it was a `jungle fever`, something that lurked in the night with malaria, the only other thing I knew was it is also called yellow fever, and caused a lot of trouble for Americans building the Panama Canal. Admittedly, a rather vague understanding.
Aedes aegypti, albopictus, and japonicus are the mosquitoes responsible for spreading this nasty `flu-like` virus. Dengue can`t be transmitted from person to person through contact, only the bite of a female mosquito carrying the virus can spread the unwelcome news. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 50 – 100 million cases annually, with almost half the world population now at risk. Before 1970 only 9 countries had Dengue epidemics, today over 100 countries are plagued by Dengue.
In the late 90`s carriers were found in Long Island, New York and Ocean County, New Jersey. Today these mosquitoes have shown up from Washington state to Florida, in Canadian provinces, Germany, France, and New Zealand. In North America fewer than 10% of cases are properly diagnosed – it`s unlikely your doctor would suspect Dengue unless you had recently travelled to a tropical location.
Dengue is not epidemic in North America or Europe; it is knocking at the door, and spreading at an incredible rate. There are those who blame it on climate change, and those who credit increased imports of products like `lucky bamboo` harbouring mosquito larvae. Either way these pests are extremely adaptable and by all appearances quite happy to join West Nile Virus as something we need to ponder.
Photo – cbc.ca