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August 1998 Vol. 13, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Health Alert

from the August, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

U.S. health authorities say doctors may be overlooking or misdiagnosing cases of dengue fever, which is on the upswing in virtually every tropical country including the Caribbean and Central America. Symptoms usually include rashes, nausea, rapid onset of high fevers, and head, joint and muscle aches. Dengue fever is contracted from mosquitoes and lasts for about 10 days to two weeks. In its most severe form, blood vessels become "leaky," leading to a dangerous and sometimes fatal drop in blood pressure.

In 1995-1996, there were 129 cases in the U.S., but El Nio-induced, warm, wet weather has increased cases significantly, especially among travelers to foreign lands. Dengue fever killed 40 people in Venezuela in 1997, and infected 32,000. A recent outbreak in Fiji killed eight and infected 6,500. In the first quarter of this year, Cairns, Australia, had 133 cases, compared to eight throughout 1997. In the south of Costa Rica, seven cases of hemorrhagic dengue have been detected, and the local hospital receives 50 patients a day suffering from classical dengue.

As there is no vaccine for dengue, the best defense is mosquito repellent and protective clothing.

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