The Epidemiology Of Dengue And West Nile Virus

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The epidemiology of both dengue and West Nile Virus (WNV) are based on mosquito patterns and their interaction with human. Dengue has plagued nearly every continent and continues to be a major public health problem. WNV, on the other hand, is a relatively new human public health problem, especially in the US. It might be possible to model control efforts found effective against the globally distributed dengue for control of West Nile Virus right here in the US. I was in high school when WNV hit my home state of Colorado and I was able to see first hand the impact this epidemic and wanted to look at it retrospectively with a public health perspective.
The epidemiology and natural history of these viruses start with their tight relation. Dengue and WNV are both members of the Flaviviridae family which includes other human pathogens like Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever virus.13 Dengue is a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA virus and WNV is an enveloped, single-strand RNA virus. 11, 18
It is estimated that 40% of the worlds population is at risk for dengue and it is considered the most important mosquito-born viral disease in the world today with incidence increasing 30-fold over the last 50 years.11 West Nile is a newer human disease, but is seeing similar increases in incidence. Between 1999-2013 there was a total of 37,000 reported human cases and WNV is now the leading cause of mosquito-borne encephalitis in the US and Canada.20 50-100 million dengue cases occur annually.9 WNV is harder to estimate because about 80% of people who are infected will not show any symptoms.13 New formal modeling framework has estimated that actual global burden of dengue could be closer to 390 million infections (more than 3x the WHO estimat...

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...iseases it is important to continue to advocate for funding. Preventative education also remains an important factor in the communities affected by these illnesses. I think that public awareness messages and healthcare worker trainings should be a priority especially during high-risk transmission times. The environmental changes (ie. global warming) also have a major effect on mosquito and bird populations so a model to predict vector fluctuations and transmission rates needs to be found. Medical research priorities should be: a dengue vaccine, a sensitive well-used WNV diagnostic test, and care beyond supportive treatment for patients. However, so far it looks like a vaccine or drug may be expensive and a long way from mass distribution. For all these reasons I feel that awareness and prevention continue to be our best defenses against dengue and West Nile Virus.

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