Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dengue Fever

 Five years ago I'd been using up some gift cards from and had bought several items. Probably some music, but I don't remember what, and some books on disease including one on Yellow Fever. Some time later I got an e-mail highlighting items they thought I might like. I was amused to see they'd combined my viral hemorrhagic fever book with music to come up with the conclusion I'd like music by a band called Dengue Fever. The sort of stupid conclusion only a computer could reach. Except they were right.

In contrast to most bands with disease related names (eg Anthrax, Cholera, Bubonic Plague, Ebola etc etc) Dengue Fever are not only not a heavy metal band but play an impressive combination of almost everything else 'Southeast Asian pop, Vietnam-war-era lounge music, klezmer, ska, surf rock, and Ethiopian jazz'. One of the band apparently caught Dengue Fever which is where they got their name. I suspect Anthrax, Cholera, Bubonic Plague and Ebola can't say that. Dengue Fever (the band) are based in LA and so play in Santa Barbara quite frequently, usually at SoHo but next Friday (February 2nd) you can catch them right here on campus at the Multicultural Center.

If you want to know something about Dengue Fever, the disease, then read on.

Although it is the Filoviruses such as Ebola that leap to mind when people hear the phrase 'viral hemorrhagic fever' (VHF) there are actually four different families of viruses that can lead to the classic symptoms of VHF's - capilliary leak leading to high temperature, shock (loss of blood pressure) and death.

This is rather important because whilst the Ebolavirus is really very rare some of the other VHF's are far more common. We'll talk about Yellow Fever in the penultimate week but another disease in the same group is Dengue Fever. Although 50-100 million people are estimated to contract this mosquito borne disease every year only a minority get a severe hemorrhagic fever. Maybe 5%. But 5% of 50-100 million is still several million people per year! In the severe form Dengue Fever causes a very high fever (over 104) and generalized muscle and joint pain (hence the common name 'breakbone fever').

It is the most common viral disease transmitted by arthropods and it is deemed second in importance to malaria in terms of tropical diseases. The World Health Organization currently counts dengue as one of sixteen neglected tropical diseases and it is found in a wide range of tropical countries across South America, Africa and Asia.

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