Sunday, February 07, 2010

Disturbing Rise in Dengue Fever Cases in Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela

When I was doing my dissertation research in Quito back in 2002-2003, one of my "ex-pat" friends, Joe, was working on a study funded by the NIH (if memory serves correctly) mapping infection disease patterns in the province of Esmeraldas. Esmeraldas is on Ecuador's north coast, and is mostly known as the center of Afro-ecuadorian culture. Joe was doing house-by-house census work with GPS in hand in places accessible only my canoe. Along the way it was his unfortunate experience to contract dengue fever, affectionately known as the Bone Crushing Disease. Joe had the misfortune of contracting dengue while his wife was out of the country, too, and thus had to take care of his two young daughters in the midst of the suffering.

Researchers are reporting an alarming rise in dengue fever, especially the haemorraghic variant, over the past twenty years. And, dengue is in the news right now in Ecuador and Colombia, as cities like Guayaquil and Cali are experiencing an outbreak of the disease. In Cali, four children and an adult recently died from haemorraghic dengue while an additional 718 suspected cases have been documented. Guayaquil is experiencing approximately three new cases every day.

The rise in dengue, like other mosquito-born illnesses and particularly malaria, points to the debate on the effects of outlawing DDT, the most effective chemical control for mosquitoes that we've come up with. Regardless of the efficacy of controlled use of DDT, at the very least I'm guessing we won't be impregnating it in kids' wallpaper.