After recording a whopping 127,000 dengue fever cases in 2013, the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) is reporting a dramatic decrease in cases of the mosquito borne virus so far in 2014.

Based on DOH surveillance reports from Jan. 1 to Aug. 16, 2014, the Philippines have seen 49,591 cases, a decrease of some 61 percent. To date, 205 people have died as a result of dengue.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy with of DOH said the decline in cases is likely multi-factorial–community efforts, government efforts and the fact that a new serotype did not arise this year. Dr. Lee Suy reminds the public not to get complacent and remain vigilant in the battle against dengue.

Dengue fever is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes and caused by any of four related dengue viruses. This disease was once called called “break-bone fever” because it sometimes causes severe joint and muscle pain that feels like bones are breaking.

Dengue fever of multiple types is found in most countries of the tropics and subtropics particularly during and after rainy season.

There are four types of dengue virus: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4.

People get the dengue virus from the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. It is not contagious from person to person.

There are three types of dengue fever in order of less severe to most: the typical uncomplicated dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHS) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

The symptoms of classic dengue usually start within a week after being infected. They include very high fever, up to 105°F, severe headache, pain behind the eye, severe joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting and a rash.

In cases of DHF and DSS, all four types can be the cause in descending order of frequency; type 2, 3, 4 and 1.

There is evidence that types 2 and 4 need to be secondary infection to cause DHF, while primary infection with types 1 and 3 can cause DHF.

Symptoms of DHF include all the symptoms of classic dengue plus severe damage to the blood vessels. Bleeding from the nose, gums or under the skin are common. This form of dengue can be fatal.

Symptoms of DSS include all of the above symptoms plus; fluid leaking outside of blood vessels, massive bleeding and shock. This form of the disease usually happens in children experiencing their second infection.

Two-third of all fatalities occurs among children.

There is no treatment for dengue, just treat the symptoms. Persons who think they have dengue should use analgesics (pain relievers) with acetaminophen and avoid those containing aspirin. They should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and consult a physician.

There is not a vaccine for dengue fever. The CDC recommends the following preventive measures:

  • The best preventive measure for residents living in areas infested with Aedes mosquito is to eliminate the places where the mosquito lays her eggs, primarily artificial containers that hold water.
  • For people living in areas with dengue, the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes indoors is reduced by utilization of air conditioning or windows and doors that are screened.
  • Proper application of mosquito repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET as the active ingredient on exposed skin and clothing decreases the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.