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GRAPPLE | With Issues and Ideas

Scientists Fight Back | Spiraling Down | Woe Is Us | As the World Warms | A Short History of the Nose |
Up to Speed

Woe Is Us: Ready, set, panic.


John Ueland
Feeling feverish? Rashy? Do your joints and eyeballs hurt? Are you vomiting? Hemorrhaging?

You may have dengue fever, the mosquito-borne virus that annually infects 50 to 100 million people around the world. In 2009, dengue came to Key West, Florida; there were 27 confirmed cases, with an additional 1,100 people--5 percent of the population--carrying either active dengue or antibodies showing that they had been exposed to the virus. Last November, a case was diagnosed in Miami as well.

Dengue used to be confined to the tropics, but climate change is spreading balmy temperatures and the diseases that come with them. The mosquitoes that carry dengue fever (Aedes aegypti, from Africa, and Aedes albopictus, from Asia) are now found in 28 states. (See a scary short animation of dengue's spread.)

"If you're in a climate where mosquitoes thrive year-round, it's much more difficult to control a mosquito-borne disease," explains Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

There are four varieties of dengue, and most adults who contract it experience nothing worse than a few days of fever. But, Fauci says, "It's a scary disease. If you're the unlucky one who gets the bad form, you can die from it." According to the World Health Organization, dengue is "the leading cause of serious illness and death among children" in some Asian countries. —Dashka Slater

NEXT: As the World Warms

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