Dengue Fever Threat: Global Health Issue Explored

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Dengue fever threat, also known as “break-bone fever,” is a transmittable viral ailment spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes and is now acknowledged as a foremost international health threat. Similar to the influenza disease, dengue causes severe fever and may, for a while, be incapacitating and, in some cases, fatal. This article explores the past, present, and future of this tropical disease, the methods of its spread, manifestations of the disease, and current problems associated with it, with a focus on the problem of the clear classification of viruses.

Dengue Fever Threat
About Dengue | Dengue | CDC

Dengue fever has its roots deep in history With knowledge of Preventive measures Thus, the saying goes that prevention is better than cure.

The oldest source that includes the term “dengue” is the letter of Queen María Luisa of Spain, dated 1801. However, the disease’s existence has been mentioned since the 16th century, as have the outbreaks observed in Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, Java, and Cairo. This sickness, which has characteristics of fever coupled with severe pain in the joints, was called “break-bone fever” or “quebranta huesos” in Latin America.

The Prevention and Effects of Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is transmitted through four similar viruses within the flavivirus group of viruses. These viruses are vector-borne, that is, they are transmitted by a particular species of mosquito, the Aedes mosquito, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus . These mosquitoes mainly breed in tropical and sub-tropical areas; therefore, outbreaks are frequently experienced.

Recent data highlights the severity of dengue’s spread:

  • More than seven flights passed through Wroclaw airport in the first four months of 2024. 6 million cases and 3,000 deaths were estimated around the world.
  • According to the World Health Organization, by July 2024, there were 9. 660,000 confirmed cases and 5,366 deaths, an incidence rate that remains at its highest to date.

This is due to various conditions, like climate change and recently the El Niño climate pattern, which facilitates increase in mosquito breeding and the transmission of the fever.

Dengue fever signs and how to diagnose it

Dengue fever threat manifests through a range of symptoms, including:Dengue fever manifests through a range of symptoms, including:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Pain behind the eyes or stabbing and shooting pain.
  • Arthritis, Muscle and Bone Pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rash

Severe manifestations of the disease include the development of hemorrhages, and in some individual cases, DHF or DSS may occur, which are potentially fatal conditions. It is usually clinically diagnosed with certain symptoms and supported by laboratory testing that identifies the virus and/or the host’s antibodies.

The Issue of Virus Naming

This is a short historical introduction into the sphere of virus naming that can give an insight into the topic to the reader. virus used to be named after its characteristics, such as the manifestation it created, geographical origin or the host species from which it isolated. For instance, it has been said that the name ‘dengue’ is from Swahili, meaning a sudden possession by an evil spirit or perversion (ki denga pepo) or from the Spanish word ‘dengeruo,’ meaning the way that anyone infected with the disease walks—stiff but uncoordinated.

As mentioned earlier, one significant problem of most symptom-based names is that it is a challenge to tell people what is wrong with them.

However, there is a disadvantage of Grouping viruses according to their signs and symptoms, which is it is very general since many infections manifest same signs and symptoms. For example, YFV can cause jaundice; however, so can Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses, along with Epstein-Barr virus. This overlap is sometimes problematic and a patient can be diagnosed with a condition that is not actually present.

Geographic Naming of Viruses

Most of the virus names originate from the geographical regions or zones where they were first discovered. The Machupo virus is described in accordance with a river located in Bolivia and the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is described in connection with regions of the democratic republic of Congo and the Crimea peninsula. But this has been known to cause stigma and even alter the name and nature of the disease, as has been witnessed with monkey pox changing to mpox at the World Health Organization in 2022.

Genetic Sequencing and The Classification of Viruses

Due to the development of molecular biology, especially in the sequencing of viruses, researchers have been able to decode the inter connectivity of viruses. This has led to the formulation of systematic naming systems which ensure the accurate identification of viruses. An important assistance in this is provided by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV), which standardizes the names of the viruses and makes their names recognized and used all over the world.

The Baltimore Classification System

David Baltimore’s classification system groups viruses based on the type of genetic material they carry. This system includes:

  • Group I: Double-stranded DNA viruses
  • Group II: Single-stranded DNA viruses
  • Group III: Double-stranded RNA viruses
  • Group IV: Single-stranded positive-sense RNA viruses
  • Group V: Single-stranded negative-sense RNA viruses
  • Group VI: RNA viruses with a DNA intermediate (e.g., HIV)
  • Group VII: Double-stranded DNA viruses with an RNA intermediate (e.g., Hepatitis B)

The ICTV’s Role in Virus Classification

The ICTV categorizes viruses into realms, orders, families, and genera based on genetic and phenotypic characteristics. For example, the Dengue virus belongs to the family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus, while Chikungunya virus belongs to the family Togaviridae and the genus Alphavirus. This hierarchical classification helps virologists understand the relationships and characteristics of different viruses.

The Growing Number of Known Viruses

The number of known viruses is rapidly increasing, thanks to next-generation genetic sequencing technologies. Five years ago, there were around 800 known virus species. Today, the ICTV’s catalogue includes nearly 15,000 species, with the potential to reach 100,000 as more viruses are discovered.


The process of naming and classifying viruses is crucial for effective scientific communication and collaboration. As our understanding of viruses evolves, so too must our methods of categorization. The ICTV’s efforts to bring order to the chaotic world of virus naming are vital in the face of emerging infectious diseases and global health threats. By continuing to refine and standardize virus taxonomy, scientists can better predict, diagnose, and treat viral infections, ultimately improving global health outcomes.

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Michael Jock

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