Over 100 countries affected by dengue virus, says WHO

LAHORE, Sept 13 : Dengue, the most common mosquito-borne viral disease affecting human beings breathing across the world for more than two centuries at least, is now endemic in more than 100 countries of Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific, says a World Health Organisation (WHO) Fact Sheet dated March 2009.

According to the above-quoted WHO report of 2009, some 2.5 billion people or two-fifths of the world’s population was then (in March 2009) at a risk from dengue, a figure which might very well have increased during the last two-and-a-half years since the publication of this document though.

The Geneva-based WHO, a specialized agency of the United Nations that is acting as a coordinating authority on international public health since April 7, 1948, had further estimated in March 2009 that there might be 50 million dengue infections worldwide every year, of which 2.5 per cent actually die.

The afore-cited WHO report had stated: “Before 1970 only nine countries had experienced Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) epidemics, a number that had increased more than four-fold by 1995. The geographical spread of both the mosquito vectors and the viruses has led to the global resurgence of epidemic dengue fever and emergence of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever in the past 25 years. The DHF was first recognized in the 1950s during the dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand.”

This is how the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the oldest and the most scholarly of all encyclopaedias in print today, describes dengue: “Dengue, also called break-bone fever or dandy fever is an acute, infectious, mosquito-borne fever that is temporarily incapacitating but rarely fatal. Besides fever, the disease is characterised by an extreme pain in and stiffness of the joints (hence the name “break-bone fever). Complication of dengue fever can give rise to a more severe form, called Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which is characterised by haemorrhaging blood vessels and thus bleeding from the nose, mouth, and internal tissues. The untreated DHF may result in blood vessel collapse, causing a usually fatal condition known as dengue shock syndrome.” On dengue’s history, the Encyclopaedia Britannica says: “The earliest account of a dengue-like disease comes from the Jin dynasty (265-420 AD) in China. There is also evidence that epidemics of illnesses resembling dengue occurred in the 17th century. However, three epidemics that took place in the late 18th century mark the arrival of the disease that is today recognised as dengue fever.

Two of these outbreaks involved an illness decidedly similar in symptoms and progression to dengue, and both occurred in 1779-one in Cairo and the other in Batavia (now Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), which was reported by Dutch physician David Bylon. The third epidemic happened in 1780 in Philadelphia. American statesman and physician Benjamin Rush, who treated afflicted patients during the Philadelphia epidemic, provided the first clinical description of dengue in his Account of the Bilious, Remitting Fever, which was published in 1789.”

Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in English language since 1770 at least, further states: “Because all three 18th-century epidemics involved very similar diseases and occurred in port cities, it is believed that dengue virus was spread from one continent to another via ships. In the early 1900s Australian naturalist Thomas Bancroft identified “Aedes Aegypti” as the carrier of dengue fever and deduced that dengue was caused by an organism other than a bacterium or parasite. During World War II, dengue emerged in Southeast Asia and rapidly spread to other parts of the world, inciting a pandemic. In the 1950s hemorrhagic dengue appeared in Southeast Asia, where it became a common cause of death among children in the 1970s.” The Encyclopaedia Britannica still has a bit more to say about dengue: “ The serotypes continued to spread on a pandemic level, eventually reaching areas of South and Central America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, where in 1977 an epidemic lasting from July to December affected some 355,000 people. In the following decades the increasing incidence of dengue, particularly DHF, persisted.”

Published by: Daily The News on September 13, 2011.

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