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NBC News Examines ‘Fastest Growing’ Vector-Borne Disease: Dengue

Dengue is the “fastest growing” vector-borne disease worldwide, NBC News’ “World Blog” writes in a story examining the disease. “It used to be contained largely to south-east Asia, but has been spreading, and is now found in South America, Africa, south Asia and parts of Australia. It recently turned up in Nepal, and last month returned to Florida for the first time in 50 years. Increasingly scientists are blaming climate change, supported by Malaysia’s ground-breaking research [at Kuala Lumpur’s Institute of Medical Research]. ‘Dengue will be a global problem in terms of health,’ said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Director. ‘Because as climate changes and temperatures rise, mosquitoes breed better,'” according to the blog.

The article looks at the situation in Malaysia because the country is “on the front line of dengue and mosquito research” and because they’re experiencing a bad outbreak this year – “more than 30,000 cases and 60 deaths in the first nine months of 2009,” the blog writes.

“Dengue used to be a disease of the rainy season, but the rains have become far less predictable, so it’s now a year-round problem.” Scientists in Malaysia also say that they are seeing more severe forms of the disease and more adult cases of it. “There’s no vaccine, and because there are four sub-types of dengue, which come in cycles, getting ill from one type does not give you immunity from the others. Quite the opposite, said [Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman of the University of Malaya Medical Center], it can leave you open to more severe attacks.”

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue, “is one of the most adaptable on the planet,” according to scientists. “It breeds just about anywhere there is stagnant water, needing no more than just a few drops of it, and scientists say its flying further and higher. And unlike the mosquitoes that carry malaria, Aedes is a day biter,” the blog writes.

The article also looks at how Malaysia is trying to prevent the spread of the disease and reports on the development of a vaccine (Williams, 12/10).

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