Dengue fever is caused by one of four related, but distinct, virus serotypes which are transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is a painful disease but not fatal unless it develops into the potentially life-threatening dengue haemorrhagic fever or severe dengue. Severe dengue was first recognized in the 1950s during dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand. Today, severe dengue affects most Asian and Latin American countries and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children in these regions. The global incidence of dengue in peri-urban and urban areas has increased dramatically in recent years, and up to 100 million people are infected annually, with more than half of the world’s population at risk.
The vector, Aedes aegypti is very common in areas lacking piped water supply where artificial or natural water containers (water storage containers, flower pots, discarded tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, drums, etc. are ideal larval habitats for this mosquito. The rapid increase in dengue is attributed to the rise in urban populations and subsequent creation of favourable breeding sites for the mosquito. Contrary to the malaria vector, Aedes aegypti is a day biting mosquito.
A successful campaign l to control Aedes aegypti through pesticide use in the 1950s and 1960s made the Americas virtually dengue –free but control was discontinued and the disease and vectors came back with a vengeance. Clinical and epidemiological patterns have changed since then and continue to evolve (This seems to not add anything, what does this mean for Dengue fever?).
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for dengue other than careful clinical management. Currently, the only way of preventing and controlling the disease is by targeting the vector, the Aedes mosquito, through environmental control and insecticide use.