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article imageArmy mobilised for West Indies Dengue Fever epidemic

By Michael Cosgrove     Aug 23, 2010 in Health
A serious Dengue Fever epidemic in Martinique and Guadeloupe is spiraling out of control, with the army being mobilized to fight it in the knowledge that the epidemic has not yet reached full strength.
The biggest outbreak of Dengue Fever in over 10 years in Martinique and Guadeloupe shows no sign of slowing down and authorities seem powerless to stop it, says Le Figaro.
Both countries are ‘overseas departments’ of France, whose health services are concentrating on attacking the origins of the virus rather than focusing on the population because there is no specific treatment or vaccine against it.
Around 33,000 cases have been identified in Guadeloupe alone since the end of 2009 and there have been 25,600 cases in Martinique since February. The illness has killed 9 people and sickened many thousands of others.
The recent alert and army mobilization have been prompted by a major uptick in the number of infections, with almost 8,000 new cases in both countries in one week – the second week of August.
Publicity campaigns have been encouraging the public to act in order to reduce the habitat and target of the virus’ main vector, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito. A list of ways to do that is also available, and people are being asked to eliminate pools of stagnant water created by human activity, to use anti-mosquito nets and to dress in body-covering clothes.
The military and other authorities are simultaneously carrying out a major campaign to disinfect major breeding grounds such as swamps, lakes and landfills as well as to destroy smaller sources in schools, which have developed over the summer holidays.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever are often characterized by the sudden onset of a high fever, severe headaches, body stiffness and extreme tiredness. Using Aspirin or other Salicin-based pain-killers to reduce discomfort is not advised as they fluidify blood, which aggravates the condition of those who have severe symptoms such as bleeding and the effects of circulatory shock.
Drugs designed to alleviate symptoms and increase resistance to the onset of the illness do exist but they are being rendered useless by the fact that two versions of the virus are now circulating at the same time. Being infected by the two serotypes – 1 and 4 – increases the risk of more serious symptoms, with the result that treatment becomes less effective and more deaths are the outcome.
This 'double-serotype' phenomenon also helps to explain the size of the epidemic because the onset of symptoms is more likely in cases where people have been infected by both of them.
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