Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mosquito-borne diseases

Extracted from ST Online 11 March 2009

Expert warns against re-emerging diseases

TWO mosquito-borne diseases re-emerging in the Americas and Australia might be a concern if they spread, warned an expert in infectious diseases.
Professor Duane Gubler, head of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School's emerging infectious diseases research programme, said that yellow fever - which has a 20 per cent fatality rate and an urban transmission cycle identical to dengue's - could become a problem if not controlled quickly. Most recently, two monkeys died of it in Trinidad.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 200,000 cases of yellow fever, with 30,000 deaths, are reported every year, mainly in Africa. Infection causes a wide range of symptoms, and they can lead to severe illness and death.

While yellow fever has never been reported in Asia, the region is at risk because the appropriate primates and mosquitoes are present.

'If we see it in the Americas now, with globalisation, it will quickly move to Asian cities and if that happens, it will create a global public health emergency that will make Sars pale in comparison,' said Prof Gubler. He said health officials should be ready with the same control measures used to tackle dengue, namely eradicating mosquito breeding and checking for transmissions.

Another mosquito-borne disease from Australia, called the Ross River virus, has a similar transmission cycle to chikungunya and dengue. It has re-emerged there due to recent heavy rains and high humidity creating more mosquito-breeding sites.

Symptoms include joint swelling and stiffness and rashes, along with feelings of tiredness and weakness. The majority of people recover fully within a few weeks.

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