July 8, 2009
Dengue Fever Becoming An Increasing Threat In The US
Experts say more than half of the states in the U.S. now have mosquitoes that are known to spread dengue fever.
A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council showed that two types of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the dengue fever virus are invading Southern and Mid-Atlantic states, creating conditions more favorable for an outbreak.
An estimated 173 million Americans live in counties that now contain one or both of the mosquito species, a problem that could escalate with global warming.
Dr. Kim Knowlton, an NRDC senior scientist, said milder winters, hotter, wetter summers and even droughts can bring this insect-borne threat closer to home.
"Usually relegated to tropical and exotic locales, dengue fever has rarely been an issue in the United States outside of the Texas-Mexico border region," he said.
However, he warned that a changing climate might allow certain species of dengue spreading mosquitoes to flourish in nearly half of the United States
Mosquitoes capable of transmitting dengue have spread into at least 28 U.S. states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona, and even states as far north as New York and New Hampshire, the report said.
Reported U.S. cases of the disease has more than doubled in the past decade and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported nearly 4,000 cases of imported and locally-transmitted dengue between 1995 and 2005.
Experts said that if the Texas-Mexico border region is included, that number is as high as 10,000 during that time period.
International rates of dengue infection have resulted in 22,000 deaths annually in more than 100 countries, with an estimated 50 to 100 million infections a year.
In 2007, more than 900,000 dengue fever cases were reported in Mexico, Central and South America.
Some experts suggest that increasing international travel and trade, densely populated communities living in poverty in many countries including the United States, and the effects of global warming are likely contributing factors to the rise in dengue fever.
Researchers project that because of global warming, in the next 75 years 3 billion additional people will become at risk for the disease across the globe.
Dengue fever, which is known as "Breakbone Fever" because of its classic symptoms, is characterized by agonizing aching in the bones, joints and muscles, a pounding headache, pain behind the eyes, a high fever and a classic rash. There is no cure or vaccine against the virus, only preventative and supportive care.
The report advises individuals to protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illnesses by wearing loose-fitting long sleeves and pants when outdoors and using DEET (not more than 30%) on exposed to mosquito swarms.
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