Dengue fever may become more common in the near-future, due to the effects of climate change and human habitation, new research reveals.
Europe, South America, and central and western regions of Africa could face massive outbreaks of the disease, according to a new study by the United Nations University.
Maps of dengue fever vulnerability - the first of their kind - show the disease is spreading to areas of the world where it could become epidemic. Areas in Europe and the mountains of South America which are currently to cold for the disease to spread could be hotbeds of the disease as global warming increases temperatures around the world.
"Changes to climate could result in increased exposure and pose a serious threat to areas that do not currently experience endemic dengue," United Nations University researchers reported.
Sanitation practices in areas of central and west Africa is poor, providing breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Researchers believe these conditions could result in spreading the illness in these regions of the continent.
"The conditions for these diseases are dynamic over time and given that we're changing our social and environmental dynamics, the global distribution of these infectious diseases like dengue is going to change," Corinne Schuster-Wallace of UN University, told reporters.
Dengue fever is extremely painful, infecting 100 million people annually, and killing 20,000 people each year. The disease is spread by female mosquitoes, and once the mosquitoes and the virus are in a region, the illness can easily spread to the local population. There is currently no vaccine or cure for the often-fatal disease. Some health experts believe the number of people infected by the virus could be as high as 300 million people each year.
Symptoms of Dengue fever include high body temperature, headache, and muscle pain, accompanied by a characteristic rash, similar in appearance to measles. Treatment for the illness involves rehydration, either by oral or intravenous delivery.
The first recorded cases of Dengue fever were reported in 1779, and identification of the virus and transmission by mosquitoes was made in the early 20th Century. The illness became a major global issue following the Second World War. It is currently endemic in 110 nations around the globe, and the number of victims of the disease have increased significantly since the 1960's. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a severe form of the illness, was first identified in the Philippines in 1953.
Health care workers battle Dengue fever primarily by fumigating areas where the mosquitoes live, in an effort to kill the insects.