A strange and unprecedented case has us questioning what we thought we knew about dengue and its transmission.
Dengue is a vector-borne virus that spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito. Right? Well, mostly yes but in a rare case from Spain, a 41-year-old man seems to have contracted the dengue virus from sexual-transmission.
FIT spoke to a few experts to help explain the case and clarify if we should collectively panic or not.
Dr Amitabh Parti, director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Memorial Hospital said,
“So far, this is one stray case. It needs to be clinically documented, with trials, studies and lab reports so that we have adequate evidence in adequate numbers.”
Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant of internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals added, “From our teachings, studies and the cases we have seen, there has never been the possibility of human-human transfer of the virus. It needs a vector as it is vector-borne.”
“I don’t know any case like this,” he said.
Explaining Vector-Borne Diseases
A vector-borne disease is one that is carried by vectors — living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases. According to the WHO, most vectors are “blood-sucking insects that ingest disease-producing microorganisms during a blood meal from an infected host (human or animal) and later inject it into a new host during their subsequent blood meal.”
Sounds familiar? A very common disease vector is a mosquito, and the dengue virus is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.
According to Dr Amitabh Parti, the Infectious Diseases of Atlanta certified dengue as vector-borne since there is a lack of evidence so far that it can be transmitted in other ways.
Dr Amitabh Parti“One stray case or news report does not equal to a medical fact. We don’t treat patients based on news reports.”
So there's no need to panic yet? “Not until there is more evidence of this,” he assures.
Meanwhile, New Dengue Vaccine May Soon Help Eliminate the Problem
So far there are no vaccines or specific treatments for the virus - there are medicines that help treat and ease the symptoms instead. Therefore prevention is the most important step.
However, there may be a new dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia in the works that will be ready in 2021. The FDA approved this in May 2019 and the last phase of the trial is underway in South-East Asia.
So there is solid hope for complete eradication of the disease but for now, Dr Patri says, “Prevention efforts are going well and this new vaccine will help.”
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