Sudan is battling an epidemic of dengue fever, which has claimed 71 lives so far and is straining the war-ravaged nation’s tattered health system, a government official said on Tuesday.
Muntasir Mohamed Osman, a senior health ministry official, said there were 299 suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the affected South Kordofan region in central Sudan.
Most of the cases, which were arriving at hospitals in the rural and mountainous area, were at a terminal stage, leading to an unusually high death rate of almost 25 percent.
“There is no vaccine or cure for dengue,” he told Reuters. “We can treat the symptoms only.”
Dengue fever afflicts victims mostly during and shortly after the rainy season in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, China, India, the Middle East, Caribbean and Central and South America, Australia and the Pacific.
Dengue fever is a mild viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes. It is characterized by fever, rash, and muscle and joint pains. See also Dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Dengue fever is caused by several related viruses (four different arboviruses). It is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes, most commonly Aedes aegypti, found in tropic and subtropic regions. This includes portions of Southeast Asia, the Indonesian archipelago into northeastern Australia, parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of South and Central America.
Dengue fever begins with sudden onset of a high fever, often to 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, and slightly later the appearance of severe joint and muscle pains.
Symptoms of the disease - which affects tens of millions of people each year - include high fever, vomiting and aching joints.
Osman said the government was spraying insecticides to kill off the mosquito and prevent the epidemic from spreading.
South Kordofan is one of the areas that was gripped by a brutal civil war which raged for all but 11 years since Sudan’s independence from Britain in 1956.
Healthcare systems are very basic, with only limited access for the region’s rural population.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD