View Full Version : Dengue Virus Sweeps Asia Killing Hundreds

09-30-2005, 11:04 PM
Dengue Virus Is Sweeping Asia, Killing Hundreds, Officials Say


Published: October 1, 2005
SINGAPORE, Sept. 30 - Even as Asia worries about a possible avian influenza pandemic, a much more common disease is sweeping the region, borne on the wings of mosquitoes and commercial aircraft: the dengue virus.

At least 127,000 people have been infected by dengue so far this year along an arc that stretches from eastern India through the Indonesian archipelago, with at least 990 deaths, the health authorities say. Warning of a dengue epidemic, Malaysia recently joined Singapore in declaring emergency measures to combat a surge in cases that has killed at least 70 people. While those two countries are experiencing record infections, the worst-affected has been populous Indonesia, with more than 48,000 cases and more than 600 deaths.

"Dengue is now one of the most important tropical diseases," said Duane Gubler, director of the Asia-Pacific Institute for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine. "While it doesn't kill that many people, it has tremendous economic and social impact."

Dengue is from the same family of viruses that causes West Nile, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. There is no vaccine or treatment, and it is estimated to infect at least 50 million people a year. Those with acute cases suffer painful fever and debilitating lethargy, with about 1 percent developing hemorrhagic fever or shock, sometimes with gastrointestinal bleeding and, in rare cases, brain hemorrhages.

Unlike other tropical diseases like malaria that are generally found in rural areas or in urban slums, dengue is carried by mosquitoes that thrive in modern cities in warm, humid climates like Singapore.

If a mosquito bites a person with dengue, the mosquito can pass the virus to the next person it bites. If that person flies to another country with mosquitoes, he or she can unknowingly spread the virus even further.

Complicating prevention, 90 percent of those infected develop only mild symptoms or no symptoms, inadvertently serving as a reservoir for the virus. Even those who do fall ill become infectious days earlier, making any potential quarantine useless, experts say.