CAIRO – 30 October 2017: The Health Ministry announced in September that dengue fever is epidemic in the Red Sea city of Al-Qusair, following the diagnoses of thousands of citizens infected by the virus. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the city reported that the number of infected people reached 1,200 in the beginning of October, most of whom are children and the elderly.
Also, 10 cases of dengue fever were reported in a fishing area in Hurghada. The severance of most reported cases was moderate and patients were treated within two to seven days as they were in the first stage of the disease. Only one death only was reported, that of a 63-year-old man, according to a statement by the Health Ministry on October 1.
As a result, the ministry developed a comprehensive plan to control the spread of the virus, including sending a national team of experts comprising of field epidemiologists, entomologists, as well as sanitation and laboratory personnel to the affected city and its neighboring villages to carry out necessary investigations.
The official spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Khalid Megahed, told Egypt Today that the fever had only spread in the Red Sea governorate and its emergence is due to the containers used in storing drinking water for residents. He also explained that the spread of ponds, sewage swamps and the accumulation of large amounts of garbage create fertile breeding grounds where dengue fever carrier mosquitoes can grow. “All this waste leads to the spread of mosquitoes,” said Megahed. He added that the installatio.
Breeding sites for dengue mosquitos – WHO photo/ J. Gusmao
The ministry also developed a case definition of the disease and disseminated it to physicians in the affected cities. Furthermore, several workshops were conducted for all health care workers to enhance their capacity for the early detection and prompt management of cases. Surveillance is ongoing in the surrounding villages and districts for early detection.
In October 2015, Egypt also faced an outbreak of dengue fever in a village in the Dayrout district of Assiut governorate. In that year, 253 cases were admitted to the Dayrout Fever Hospital due to acute febrile illness but experienced no further complications or fatalities.
What is dengue fever?
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that has rapidly spread in tropical and sub-tropical climates across the globe, mostly in urban areas. The infection causes flu-like illness, and sometimes develops to severe dengue which leads to serious illness and can be fatal among children in some countries. It is related to the viruses that cause the West Nile infection and yellow fever, transmitted by the same mosquito that transmits the Zika infection.
The virus can’t be spread from one person to another, it is only transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global incidence of dengue has grown in the last decades, leaving about half of the world’s population at risk. The international organization explains that the disease’s spread is influenced by rainfall, temperature and unplanned rapid urbanization.
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
The dengue symptoms usually begin four to six days after infection and last for up to 10 days. They may include sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, severe joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and a skin rash that appears two to five days after the onset of fever and mild nose or gums bleeding. The virus’ symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock and death, which is dubbed the dengue shock syndrome.
How is dengue fever diagnosed?
The only way to diagnose dengue infection is through blood tests to check for the virus or antibodies in the blood stream.
How is dengue fever treated?
There is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat the infection. The treatment is directed towards relieving the symptoms of the disease through pain killers that don’t contain aspirin as it worsens the bleeding. Patients should rest, drink plenty of fluids and visit the doctor. Some researchers recommend using the Papaya leaf extract to treat dengue fever. Moreover, early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates to below one percent, according to the WHO.
Papaya fruit – cc via flickr
How to prevent the infection spread?
Until April 2016, there was no vaccine to prevent dengue fever. However, in 2016 a vaccine was approved for use by those between the ages of nine and 45 living in dengue-endemic areas. The best way to prevent the disease is to prevent bites by infected mosquitoes, particularly in tropical areas, by eradicating the mosquitoes carrying the virus.
To reduce the mosquito population, it is vital to get rid of places where mosquitoes can breed, including old tires, cans, or spots that can collect rain. People living in tropical areas are advised to use mosquito repellents, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks, using air conditioning if available, making sure window and door screens are secure and free of holes as well as using mosquito nets.
It is important for anyone to inform their physician if any fever symptoms occur after travelling to a tropical area. This will allow the physician to evaluate the possibility that the symptoms were caused by a dengue infection.
If someone at home is infected dengue fever, family members should be cautious to protect themselves from mosquitoes as they can spread the infection to others in the home.
A local health worker uses a torch to check for signs of water and mosquito eggs inside tires - WHO photo/ J. Gusmao
Regular fogging to prevent dengue and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes - WHO photo/ J. Gusmao
What geographic areas are at high risk for contracting dengue fever?
According to statistics from the WHO, Sri Lanka reported the highest number of dengue fever cases from January to July 2017, with 80,732 infected cases of which 215 died.