Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is a painful and sometimes fatal viral disease characterized by headache, skin rash and debilitating muscle and joint pains. In some cases, it can lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma and death.
Dengue fever is caused by one of four related, but distinct, virus serotypes (DEN 1-4), which are transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Infected humans are the main carriers and multipliers of the virus, serving as a source of the virus for uninfected mosquitoes. The disease is concentrated in urban and peri-urban environments in tropical and subtropical regions.
While at first dengue infection may be asymptomatic, individuals who have been infected with dengue once are more likely to contract severe dengue, which can lead to hemorrhage, shock, coma and death. Though early and effective fluid intake and electrolyte replacement can ease symptoms, there is no specific medication or cure available for dengue. Without proper treatment of symptoms, such as the fluid intake described above, fatality rates of the severe forms can exceed 20%.
Water containers, flower pots, old automobile tires, buckets and other discarded items that collect rainwater – common in urban areas – are the ideal breeding locations for mosquitoes that transmit dengue. Dengue prevention efforts to date have focused on vector control, through emptying of such containers and insecticide spraying.