Saturday, August 31, 2013

dengued if you, dengued if you don't

If I needed a reminder I am in The States, watching the evening news would easily qualify.

The local television programs and newspapers are abuzz with headlines that southern Florida is awash in a Dengue fever epidemic.

Now, Dengue fever is a nasty piece of work.  Vomiting.  Diarrhea.  High Fever.  Rash.  Immobilizing joint pain.  Anybody who has ever had Dengue would never treat the topic lightly. Two years ago, the fever swept through Melaque.

But there is a vast difference between taking a topic seriously and becoming irrationally hysterical.  And hysterical is where the local press is these days.

Of course, it is hard to tell that it is hysteria because the stories are served up at the same high pitch as illegal immigrants on the beach, toxic algae in the lake, impending war in Syria, incompetent cosmetic surgeons one county over, and rainy weather.

And the reason for the hysteria?   The first two cases of Dengue fever in Dade County for this year were reported earlier in the week.  Now there are something like 11.  You would think that AIDS is ravaging South Beach.

The States had serious outbreaks of Dengue fever before World War Two.  After the war, communities started serious vector control that wiped out the Aedes aegypti, mosquito, the chief Dengue carrier.

All went well until the last few years when Dengue started appearing in The States for two reasons.  Vector control programs were cut back --allowing the carrier mosquitoes to return.  And a full generation without exposure to the disease left Americans susceptible to outbreaks.

So, I guess that is the good news.  The good people of Florida and Texas may suffer through a generation of lost work days and a lowered gross domestic product. The result? They will be immune to another outbreak of the same strain.

The bad news?  They will now be more susceptible to one of the other three strains -- of which, the worst strain results in a death rate of  20%.

And one of the suggested solutions?  Florida has considered releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild to interrupt the reproductive cycle of the disease-carrying population.  I am certain there will be no controversy with that "genetically modified" appellation.

Read more here:

Maybe there is a basis for the hysteria.  It is just a few strains too early.

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