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Dengue Fever Vaccine Falls Short of Its Goal – Only Effective 30% of the Time – Disappointing Results

September 17, 2012

First of all, what is Dengue Fever?  Dengue fever (DF) is a virus-caused disease that is spread by mosquitoes.  DF is caused by one of four different but related viruses. Dengue fever is being seen more often in world travelers. It is spread by the bite of mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which is found in tropic and subtropic regions.

This includes parts of:

  • Indonesian archipelago into northeastern Australia
  • South and Central America
  • Southeast Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Some parts of the Caribbean

More than one-third of the world’s population living in areas at risk for transmission, dengue infection is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. As many as 100 million people are infected yearly.

Dengue fever begins with a sudden high fever, often as high as 104 – 105 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 to 7 days after the infection. A flat, red rash may appear over most of the body 2 – 5 days after the fever starts. A second rash, which looks like the measles, appears later in the disease. Infected people may have increased skin sensitivity and are very uncomfortable. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache (especially behind the eyes)
  • Joint aches
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vomiting

There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. You will need fluids if there are signs of dehydration. Tylenol is used to treat a high fever. Avoid taking aspirin. The condition generally lasts a week or more. Severe cases can involve bleeding and shock and can be fatal, particularly for children. Although uncomfortable, dengue fever is not usually deadly.

The leading candidate to become the world’s first vaccine against DF was only 30 percent effective in its first large clinical trial, dealing at least a temporary setback to efforts to control a disease that threatens 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s population.  Still, a study published last week in The Lancet, marked a milestone in the 70-year quest to develop such a vaccine, demonstrating that a safe and effective inoculation against dengue is feasible.

This HealthMap shows Dengue Fever distribution over the past three months.

As the climate continues to change, its spread is likely to continue reaching further north. The incidence has increased sharply in the last few decades and the disease now affects more than 100 countries. In 2009, the Florida Keys had its first cases in decades.

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