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Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 through a group of diseased monkeys. In 1952, the first infected human was found in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The Island of Yap is the first location where a large scale outbreak of the Zika virus was recorded. This incident took place in 2007. There are currently no countries facing a sizeable Zika outbreak, however, there may be a risk of contracting the disease in regions where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. This article looks at the top 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus.

10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus

  1. People are more likely to contract the Zika virus in poor countries. Mosquitoes that carry Zika often breed in stagnant water. These buildups of stagnant water are found in areas where communities lack adequate plumbing and sanitation. According to the United Nations Development Programme, poor households are least equipped to deal with the virus and are most likely to be exposed to the disease.
  2. Women face the biggest consequences during a Zika outbreak. Health ministers throughout Latin America have told women not to get pregnant during a Zika epidemic. In poorer countries, women lack access to sexual education, which leaves them vulnerable to misinformation. Furthermore, women may be blamed for contracting the virus during pregnancy, which carries an unfair social stigma.
  3. Zika poses a threat to unborn children. In some cases, when a pregnant woman is infected by the virus it disrupts the normal development of the fetus. This can cause debilitating side effects like babies being born with abnormally small heads and brains that did not develop properly. This condition is called microcephaly. Symptoms of microcephaly are seizures, decreased ability to learn, feeding problems, and hearing loss.
  4. Even though a mosquito bite may be the most well-known way to contract the Zika virus, it is possible to get the disease through other avenues. It is possible to get the disease during unprotected sex with a partner, who already have been infected by the virus. Individuals can also contract the virus during a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.
  5.  Symptoms of a Zika virus infection may go unnoticed. The symptoms can be described as mild. If symptoms do occur they can present themselves as a fever, rash or arthralgia. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women because they may not know that they have been infected, unknowingly passing it on to their unborn baby. There is no treatment available to cure this disease once it has been contracted.
  6. There are other birth defects associated with the Zika virus. Congenital Zika syndrome includes different birth problems that can occur alongside microcephaly. Some malformations associated with congenital Zika syndrome include limb contractures, high muscle tone, eye abnormalities, and hearing loss. Approximately 5-15 percent of children born to an infected mother have Zika related complications.
  7. The cost of caring for a child born with Zika related complications can be quite expensive. In Brazil, each kid born with the disease could cost $95,000 in medical expenses. It would cost approximately $180,000 in the U.S. to care for the same condition. Some experts believe the numbers are higher when taking into account a parent’s lost income and special education for the child.
  8. Even though there are more than 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus, there are also measures being taken to prevent future outbreaks. Population Services International (PSI) is working with the ministries of health in many different Latin American countries to spread contraception devices. This promotes safe sex practices. This also gives the women the power to decide if and when she wants to become pregnant.
  9.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is also implementing steps to control the Zika virus. Some of these steps include advancing research in the prevention of the virus, developing and implementing surveillance symptoms for Zika virus infection, improving Zika testing laboratories worldwide, supporting global efforts to monitor strategies aimed at limiting the Aedes mosquito populations and improving care to support families and affected children alike.
  10. The good news is that there are currently no major global outbreaks of the Zika virus. This is a sign that steps around the globe have been successful to lower the number of Zika cases. However, this doesn’t mean that precautions shouldn’t be taken when traveling to areas where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. Even though they are no major outbreaks the disease still exists and may cause problems if contracted.

Conclusions

Even though the Zika virus may currently not be a threat worldwide, it is still something that needs to be accounted for. Zika has serious repercussions in poverty-stricken countries where people can’t afford adequate medical care. The Zika virus is also more likely to be contracted in poorer regions. The Zika virus has a strong correlation with poverty.

– Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Zika VaccineIn 2015 and 2016, the Zika virus was one of the biggest health issues in the Americas. Though it is widespread in Central and South America, the virus has affected a total of 84 counties worldwide. As such, the development of a Zika vaccine is necessary to combat the spread of the virus.

The virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes and attacks the immune system, which can lead to heart problems or death. In a few cases, Zika also caused Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which damages one’s nervous system and can lead to partial or total paralysis.

A link has been discovered between the presence of the virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in their children. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a smaller head than normal, often resulting in incomplete brain development. As a result of the prevalence of the Zika virus, pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant are told to be vigilant and, in some cases, even delay getting pregnant for fear of giving birth to a child with microcephaly. This helped push researchers to attempt to develop a Zika vaccine.

This virus has remained an issue since it was brought to light; Americans have been issued travel advisories and warnings regarding the virus. So, what is being done to combat the virus in 2017?

As a result of successful trials in animals, one study moved on to test the vaccine on human subjects in April 2017. On October 4, 2017, articles were published with updates on the human trials. These trials are reportedly going well to date, as a result of all participants making antibodies, which are required for the body to fight off the virus. It was reported that the vaccine was “well-tolerated” by humans in this trial.

Developing a vaccine is important in the fields of public and global health. However, in order to develop a Zika vaccine, much more testing must be done. Various groups and firms are actively researching the virus in order to make this happen. Researchers are also debating including pregnant women in trials to combat the birth defects that result from the Zika virus.

Nonetheless, the progress achieved thus far is promising for the populations around the world who are at risk of being infected by the virus. If this vaccine is successful, many people’s lives will be positively impacted.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr