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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – September 2, 2002: Dengue Fever - 2002-08-30

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization says dengue (DEN-gay) fever is increasing in parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Health officials say the disease continues to be a major public health concern in countries with hot climates. People suffer from the disease in more than one-hundred nations in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

Mosquito insects spread the dengue virus when they feed on the blood of an infected person. The disease spreads quickly in big cities where living conditions are not clean. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water storage areas or where bodily waste is collected. The W-H-O says better waste removal and water storage systems could stop mosquitoes from reproducing in those places.

There are four different forms of the dengue virus. Because of this, no drug has been developed to fully prevent the disease. However, researchers believe a medical vaccine may be developed in several years.

The last major increase in dengue fever was reported in nineteen-ninety-eight. The World Health Organization says more than one-million cases were reported that year. Health officials say this was a record number. However, they suspect that more than fifty-million people are infected with the disease around the world each year. The W-H-O estimates that about forty percent of the world’s population is at risk of getting dengue fever.

The disease affects babies, children and young adults. A person with dengue fever has a high body temperature and severe pain in the head, muscles and bones. People infected with the disease do not usually die. However, the most serious form of the disease is dengue hemorrhagic fever. It kills about five percent of victims. Most of them are very young. Signs of this form of the disease include bleeding inside the body.

The only method to control or prevent dengue fever is to kill mosquitoes carrying the disease. Most countries already use chemicals to kill mosquitoes. However, health problems develop when countries stop controlling mosquitoes when the number of cases of the disease is low. The W-H-O says the spread of dengue fever could be reduced if mosquito control programs were carried out all the time.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Bill White.