French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur announced this week that it would soon be bringing to the market a vaccine to counter Dengue fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes and which is estimated to threaten almost half the world’s population.
The new Dengue fever vaccine underwent tests for efficacy in summer 2012 as reported in an earlier Digital Journal article. Although trials of the drug remain to be completed, such is the company’s confidence in its efficacy that Sanofi Pasteur will be setting up production facilities for the dengue fever vaccine at a new facility near the French city of Lyon. The first commercial batches are expected to be available in 2015, reports RFI.
Dengue fever, sometimes known as tropical flu is a mosquito-borne disease caused by four types of dengue viruses. It threatens over 2.5 billion people, almost half of the world’s population, in over 100 countries. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, it is estimated there may be 50–100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. Sanofi Pasteur also report that 500 000 people, mostly children, develop a variant, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a severe form of the disease.
Although Dengue fever occurs principally in tropical and sub-tropical countries, just as mosquitoes are spreading to previously cooler climes, the disease is spreading to new parts of the globe each year. A number of factors are contributing to a wider incidence of Dengue fever, including urbanization and increased travel. In autumn 2012, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported the first significant outbreak of dengue fever in Europe since 1920 when around 1,300 people were infected in the Portuguese island of Madeira.
World Health Organisation
Extent of Dengue fever and countries at risk 2011 according to World Health Organisation (WHO)
Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Once contracted, there is no specific treatment for the disease and vaccination is considered the only efficient means of combating it. Until such time as the anticipated Sanofi Pasteur clinically proven vaccine against Dengue fever becomes available in three years time, according to the WHO, there are certain steps travellers to regions where the disease is endemic can take meantime to minimise the risk of contracting the fever:
1. Stay in hotels that are well screened or air conditioned.
2. Use insect repellent on uncovered skin.
3. Use a repellent that contains one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin (KBR 3023), Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD, or IR3535. (Always follow instructions on the label when using a repellent).
4. If sunscreen is needed, apply before applying insect repellent.
5. Wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
6. For increased protection, clothing may be sprayed with a repellent containing permethrin. (Permethrin should never be used directly on the skin.)