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Health officials sound the alarm as 'break-bone fever' hits record levels: 'There are 200% more cases'

"It's a disease that, out there, one doesn't take very much into account, but it's ugly."

"It's a disease that, out there, one doesn't take very much into account, but it's ugly."

Photo Credit: iStock

Warmer and wetter conditions have pushed dengue rates in Argentina on a record-breaking pace, threatening the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people.  

What's happening? 

According to Reuters, the South American country has already seen 79 deaths and 120,000 cases through late March because of the mosquito-borne illness this 2023-24 season, with around 103,000 coming in the first 10 weeks of 2024. It's a staggering increase from the 8,343 cases recorded in the same span a year ago.

"We are experiencing Argentina's largest dengue outbreak," said Mariana Manteca Acosta, a director of diagnostics and investigations at the Malbran Institute and an infectious disease specialist. "There are 200% more cases than at the same time in the season last year."

"With the projections as it is, we will exceed last year," said Buenos Aires-based infectious disease specialist Eduardo Lopez. "We still have all of April, the rest of March, and at least 15 days of May. So we are going to exceed 130,000 cases. This year is going to be a record."

Why is the dengue outbreak concerning?

Dengue cases in the southern hemisphere typically increase during the hot and humid months from February to May, with last season's peak starting in April. However, it appears the planet's overheating spurred by human activity has shifted the period when mosquitoes are active. 

Reuters also mentioned that Brazil is experiencing a similar surge and that the virus is spreading to areas it had never been found in before.  

As such, the current outbreak foreshadows one of the numerous dangers of a warming planet, extending the timeline of mosquito activity and expanding the blood-feeding insects' inhabitable regions.

Communities in Argentina and other South American nations are at risk of the many symptoms caused by dengue, including fever, nausea, vomiting, rash, and death. It's been nicknamed "break-bone fever" because of the severe muscle and joint pains some patients encounter.

"It's a disease that, out there, one doesn't take very much into account, but it's ugly," said Valeria Medina, who has been hospitalized in the Argentinian province of Salta after contracting dengue.

What can I do to protect myself?

The World Health Organization recommends a vaccine for children aged 6 to 16 living in dengue hotspots.

In the meantime, proactive measures include eliminating still water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs or adding Mosquito Dunks to standing water to keep larvae from maturing. At the very least, individuals hiking or traveling through areas populated with mosquitoes should wear long layers and cover any exposed skin. 

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