We all know that the worldwide effects of climate change are beyond disastrous: shrunken glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme seasons that hinge on imbalance, long periods of drought, declining supplies of water, flooding and erosion.

Unfortunately, it does not stop at that. As climate change continues to pervade the planet, diseases brought on by insect outbreaks are continuing to spread globally. Warmer levels of temperature in places that were once cold have allowed the survival of disease-carrying animals, microbes and insects which would not have normally lasted in these areas.

Aside from climate change, the transfer of a population from rural areas to urban areas has caused the intermittent spread of insect-carried diseases. Airplane travel and the interaction of companies, people, and governments with other nations have also spurred the dispersion of these diseases.

Dengue Fever

One such insect-carried disease is dengue fever, the leading cause of death and illness in the tropics and subtropics.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 million individuals are infected by the mosquito-borne disease annually. The deadliest form of dengue kills about 22,000 people every year.

Dengue is rare in the U.S., but it is typically endemic in Puerto Rico, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The bad news is, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that dengue has now become a worldwide threat, and is now endemic to 100 countries.

Dengue cases have increased 30-fold since the 1950s, the WHO said. More than half of the world's population is at risk of being infected by the mosquito-borne disease.

Symptoms

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes called Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The disease cannot be spread from contact with a person who has it.

The symptoms of dengue include severe joint and muscle pain, fever, bleeding gums, headache, exhaustion, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. The presence of rash, headache and fever is known as the "dengue triad," meaning that it is characteristic of the disease.

At the acute phase of dengue, the person will experience chills, pain behind the eyes, muscle aches and fever for one to two weeks.

In the first few hours after the disease manifested, the person's temperature will rise quickly to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The eyes will become reddened.

After four days, the body temperature will drop, and the person will experience profuse sweating. This will be preceded by a period when the temperature is back to normal, but it will only last for a day as the temperature will rise again.

Prevention

Currently, there is still no dengue vaccine approved yet, but several are undergoing clinical trial. The efficacy of these vaccines is being tested.

To prevent the further transmission of the dengue from person to mosquito to person, dengue patients are often kept under a mosquito net until the second wave of fever has passed.

Without an approved vaccine, governments believe that the best way to prevent dengue is to control and eradicate the mosquitoes that carry the disease. People are advised to empty stagnant water from trash cans, old tires, and flower pots in order to prevent the mosquito from laying its eggs.

Experts also suggest that individuals should wear protective clothing. Long pants and long sleeves, as well as mosquito-repellent sprays and lotion, can prevent mosquito bites.

Treatment

There is also no specific antibiotic or medicine to treat dengue. Experts said that treatment is often concerned with the relief of symptoms. The most effective way to do so is by fluid intake, hydration and rest.

Pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor, especially because it could worsen bleeding complications.

First-Ever Dengue Vaccine

Meanwhile, Sanofi-manufactured Dengvaxia, a vaccine for dengue, has secured approval from Mexico and the Philippines.

Clinical trials performed on more than 40,000 people in 15 countries revealed that the new vaccine can immunize two-thirds of individuals who are nine years old and above. The vaccine can also lower the chances of hospitalization by 80 percent.

"It's a major step in the prevention of dengue and for public health," said Sanofi Head for Vaccines Olivier Charmeil.

Other companies such as Merck, Takeda and GlaxoSmithKline are developing vaccinations for dengue, but Sanofi is ahead of the group. About 20 more countries in Asia and Latin America are reviewing Dengvaxia.

Photo : CDC Global | Flickr

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