Dengue fever on the rise as peak season begins; here’s all you need to know

The number of dengue infections is on the rise in Singapore, with the number of new cases in the first five months of this year surpassing the figure for the full year 2021. More than 8,500 cases of dengue fever had been reported from January to mid-May.

The dengue season, which lasts from June to October, in Singapore, has only just begun. The country’s national environmental agency has warned that a major epidemic could happen this year. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause outbreaks that overwhelm hospitals.

What are the symptoms?

A high temperature, headache, vomiting, muscle discomfort, joint problems and skin rash are all signs of infection. Abdominal pain, rapid breathing, a bloated liver, blood in the stool or vomiting are all warning symptoms of a more serious condition, according to experts. Doctors believe that numerous factors are contributing to the increase in Singapore, including an increase in the less common serotype DenV-3, meaning most people are immune.

Singapore is a favorite holiday destination for residents of the United Arab Emirates. Travel between the UAE and Singapore has now resumed following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. “Dengue fever is uncommon in the UAE and is brought in by travelers from endemic locations around the world,” said Dr. Brijesh Bhardwaj, an internal medicine specialist and department head of the NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, Dubai, National News reported. †

How does the virus infect humans?

The virus has four different serotypes. Infection with one confers all four immunity for about a year, as well as permanent protection against the specific variety. However, due to a phenomenon known as antibody-dependent enhancement, discovering a different serotype later can lead to more severe symptoms. This happens when antibodies from a previous dengue infection bind to an infectious particle of a different dengue serotype, but fail to neutralize it, allowing it to infect some type of white blood cell more efficiently.

The Aedes species – Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus – mosquitoes are the carriers of the virus. When a mosquito picks up dengue from an infected individual, it incubates the virus until it reproduces enough to form a reservoir before biting more individuals. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 4 billion people live in areas where dengue occurs, and 400 million are infected with dengue each year. About 40,000 of them perish.

Last year, researchers in Indonesia discovered that when an army of mosquitoes is infected with a virus-inhibiting bacteria, the number of dengue fever drops drastically. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the study resulted in a 77% reduction in infections and an 86% reduction in hospitalizations. The study was motivated by the hypothesis that mosquitoes infected with the bacterium Wolbachia had a harder time transmitting viruses to humans, resulting in fewer occurrences.

The bacterium is found in 60% of insect species and coexists with viruses such as dengue fever in the same parts of the mosquito’s body. Dengue fever cannot replicate as easily as before, so mosquitoes are less likely to spread the virus.

Image: Unsplash

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