In March 2009, there was an epidemic of dengue fever (DF) in Bolivia, South America. Dengue fever? Most of us haven’t even heard of this disease. Even physicians, who may have a dim recollection of dengue fever from medical school, can’t pronounce the name of this disease correctly. (At the end of this posting, I will give you a pronunication key so you can impress your own doctor.) Thousands of Bolivianos were reported to be infected, including fatalities. American newspapers showed a photograph of Bolivan president Evo Morales participating in the fumigating effort. Heavy rains are felt to have contributed to favorable breeding conditions for mosquitos, who transmit the disease.
DF is confirmed every year in Americans who have traveled to the tropics and subtropics. Since there is no vaccine, travelers need to adopt strategies to avoid mosquito contact. Here are some important tips on keeping these biters at bay.
Most folks with DF have silent infections and don’t become ill. Unluckier victims will develop high fevers, headache, nausea, vomiting and a rash. Severe muscle and joint pains have given the disease the graphic nickname of ‘breakbone fever’ or ‘bonecrusher disease’. This can be a tricky diagnosis for doctors to make since these symptoms are common to many other illnesses. The diagnosis is generally made if an individual has compatible symptoms and was traveling in a region known to harbor DF cases.
The World Health Organization estimates that 50 million people will contract DF each year. Discuss with your travel doctor what you can do to avoid joining this list. Find a trained travel physician near you.
Finally, for the medical linguists who want to prounounce DF correctly, here’s your answer. I’ll assume you can pronounce the word fever correctly. For dengue, say DENGee.