Within tropic and sub-tropic regions, as well as the urban and semi-urban areas of these regions, dengue fever is a leading cause of death. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and affects approximately 400 million people annually.
First discovered in the 1950s, dengue fever is also known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, and was more closely studied during an epidemic in both Thailand and the Philippines. The past decade has seen an increase in the outbreaks of the disease. While dengue fever used to be limited to specific regions, it is now spreading from south-east Asia and the western pacific to regions in Europe, China and the United States.
The most common transmitter is named the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. After an infected mosquito bites and infects a human, other mosquitoes who bite the same human also become carriers of the disease.
As an urban-dwelling creature, this type of mosquito thrives in a man-made environment. The Aedes albopictus, another carrier, has been identified as one of the causes for the increase in dengue fever across the globe. With its ability to adapt to survive in both freezing and scorching temperatures, and its affinity to breed in goods typically traded internationally, this type of mosquito has been able to travel overseas to inflict new populations.
A vaccine to combat dengue fever is currently in development, although researchers are skeptical about its success rate. In a recent trial in Asia, the vaccine was only effective 56.5 percent of the time. While the vaccine has the chance to reduce the frequency of the disease by about half, the vaccine has not been successful in protecting against all four strains of the virus.
Researcher at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Annelies Wilder-Smith, asserts that at this stage, it is impossible to know the lasting effects of the vaccine and that children who receive the vaccine will need to be closely observed for a minimum of three years.
Most successful methods of prevention for the time being, therefore, have proven to be those involving avoiding a mosquito bite altogether.