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.

The Symptoms and Treatment of Valley Fever: A Serious Fungal Infection with Common Symptoms

Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed because of the common cold symptoms it produces. If left untreated death can occur.

In the dry deserts of the world an often undiagnosed medical condition spreads through the wind infecting a wide range of unsuspecting people. This disease that can travel with the wind is called Valley Fever. This disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. This fungus can thrive in warm, dry environments like the deserts of Mexico and Arizona. The fungal infection is spread into the air when the soil is disturbed like in a dust storm. Because of this, people with digging jobs and contractors are often diagnosed with this condition. Once the fungus is in the air it is inhaled into the lungs resulting in Valley Fever.

The Risks

Although Valley Fever can affect anyone, many factors can increase a person’s risk for becoming infected with this disease. People with weak immune systems are likely to be infected, especially those that suffer from HIV/AIDS. Pregnant women and diabetics have an increased risk to Valley Fever.

Ethnicity has shown to increase a person’s risk for Valley Fever. Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and African Americans have shown to have a higher chance of getting Valley Fever than others. Filipinos are also known to frequently have this infection.

Environmental factors can increase a person’s risk for Valley Fever as well. The hot deserts, like those in the Southwestern United States, have high reports of this infection. Windy environments can increase a person’s risk. Construction workers, farmers, and other outside labor jobs increase the risk of contracting this disease.

The Symptoms

Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms associated with it are so common to colds and flu. Although Valley Fever has cold-like symptoms it is not contagious from person to person. Symptoms usually occur after the incubation period which lasts about one to three weeks. The symptoms of this disease are fevers, dry coughs, and chest pains. A person with this disease can also experience joint pain, fatigue, and headaches. Rarely, a rash or red bumps will be visible on the body. Because these symptoms are so similar to other illnesses Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed and untreated. It is then able to spread to other areas of the body.

Treatment

If Valley Fever is left untreated it can begin to infect other areas of the body. It can spread to the lymph nodes, other organs, bones, and skin. If it is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, the coverings of the brain and spinal cord can become infected.

Valley Fever can easily be diagnosed by a doctor. The doctor will ask a series of questions involving recent travel, environment conditions, and work history. Chest x-rays are used to diagnose this condition as well as blood tests. Anti-fungal medications are used to kill the infection. Frequent check ups and testing are needed to check to make sure the infection doesn’t reoccur.