Dengue Fever is Not Confined to Africa: There is More to This Disease than Meets the Eye

Dengue fever is spreading at alarming rates, and humanitarian and health organizations from around the world are struggling to help keep it at bay.

The World Health Organization estimates that two fifths of the world population, 2.5 billion people, are at risk from dengue fever. The little known disease is currently epidemic in over 100 countries with 50 to 100 million cases estimated per year. The aedes aegypti mosquito, responsible for its spread and originally found in Africa, populates the tropics globally today.

White markings on legs and a lyre shaped marking on the center underbelly distinguishes the insect that causes dengue fever from other mosquitoes.

How does One Contract Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever, aka breakbone fever, is caused by one of four viruses spread by an aedes mosquito bite. The majority of cases occur in urban tropical and subtropical areas but cases are being reported more often in the United States. Hawaii, Texas, and states bordering the Gulf of Mexico have reported cases recently. Area maps showing infected areas can be found on the Center for Disease Control website.

Although extremely uncomfortable the initial symptoms of Dengue fever will pass within 14 days. High fever, headache, rash and body wide muscle and joint pain begin to be experienced within four to seven days of being bitten. Nausea and vomiting may or may not be present. There is no treatment for dengue fever beyond re-hydrating and rest. Blood tests to confirm its presence and liver function evaluations are sometimes ordered.

Getting Infected with Dengue Fever

Since there are four strains, a person can be infected multiple times. Due to the damage done to the liver and blood vessels, subsequent instances can result in life threatening conditions.

The more severe form of dengue fever is Dengue hemorrhagic fever. The symptoms are the same as those of the more mild form at first, but become worse after the first few days. Damage to lymph and blood vessels as well as a decrease in platelets is common in dengue hemorrhagic fever and hospitalization is needed to prevent Dengue shock syndrome.

The sudden drop in blood pressure is the life threatening quality of Dengue shock syndrome. Blood vessel leakage and heavy bleeding may be accompanied by piercing abdominal pain, repeated vomiting and disorientation. These symptoms appear after the fever has receded between the third and seventh day. If proper diagnosis and treatment is not received within 12 hours, death may occur.

Prevention primarily centers on avoiding mosquito bites. Wearing an insect repellent that contains at least a 10% concentration of DEET is best. Sunrise, sunset and early evenings are the prime feeding times for the aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever.

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What Vaccinations Does My Puppy Need? Vaccinations and the Symptoms of Canine Infectious Diseases

Vaccination is a crucial step in the health care of your dog to prevent Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Kennel Cough.

Most people know the importance of having their puppy vaccinated. Here are some details about canine diseases commonly vaccinated against in Australia. In addition to these diseases, some countries also vaccinate against Rabies, Leptospirosis, and Coronavirus etc. Not all vaccinations (apart from Rabies) are necessary and may depend on factors, such as pet health and the area you live in. Please see your local Veterinarian for further information. Here are 4 common diseases that should be vaccinated against:

  • Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Kennel Cough (Canine Contagious Respiratory Disease)

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine Distemper is an infectious viral disease (related to measles) that has a high morbidity rate and depending on factors including patient and the treatment provided, has a varying mortality rate. There is a risk for any dog to contract distemper, however, more susceptible are dogs between 3-9 months of age.

Distemper virus is shed in faeces, urine, vomit, saliva and nasal and ocular discharge. It is most commonly transferred by contact with an infected dog via inhalation of droplets or aerosol.

Symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Pyrexia (fever)
  • Tonsillitis
  • Pharyngitis (inflammation of pharynx/sore throat)
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of body condition
  • Hyperkeratosis of nose and footpads (thickening of skin)

What is Canine Hepatitis?

Canine Hepatitis is another infectious disease and affects the liver, lymph nodes and vascular endothelium (layer of cells of the cardiovascular system that regulates the transport of blood). Mortality is high with sudden deaths common in neonatal (newborn) puppies, which may not show clinical signs.

The virus is shed in faeces, urine and saliva and transmission is via dog-to-dog contact or contact with infected faeces/urine.

Symptoms can include:

  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Pyrexia
  • Shock
  • Collapse
  • Abdominal pain

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine Parvovirus is an infectious disease that causes myocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue) in puppies and acute gastroenteritis (stomach/intestine inflammation) in puppies and adults.

Parvovirus is shed in faeces and contact with contaminated faeces is the main source of transmission. Because Parvovirus is resilient, it can remain viable off the host for up to a year, facilitating its spread. It can also be transmitted through dog-to-dog contact.

Symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea (containing blood)
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Death (within a short time if not treated)

What is Kennel Cough?

Canine Contagious Respiratory Disease commonly known as Kennel Cough is a highly infectious disease and, as its name suggests, often occurs where dogs are kept together such as kennels or animal shelters.

It is transmitted via dog-to-dog contact via inhalation and is not life threatening like the previous viruses discussed, but still very uncomfortable for your dog and on occasion, the infection can last for months.

Symptoms can include:

  • Dry cough
  • Frequent coughing
  • Retching
  • Vomiting
  • Nasal discharge

How Often Should I Vaccinate?

This can vary slightly from vet to vet, but generally your puppy will need 3 vaccinations at the following intervals:

  • 6 weeks
  • 8-10 weeks
  • 10 – 12 weeks/14 weeks (depending on when the previous vaccination was administered)

The reason your puppy needs 3 vaccinations is because it is impossible to determine when the immunity the puppy received from its mother will ‘run out’. After your puppy has had its 3 vaccinations, it will require ongoing annual boosters, as this will build a good immune response.