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What to know about dengue fever as Nigeria reports outbreak

What to know about dengue fever as Nigeria reports outbreak

On Saturday, December 16, Nigeria reported an outbreak of the viral dengue fever from three local government areas of Sokoto State.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control disclosed that so far, 71 suspected cases, 13 confirmed cases, and zero deaths have been reported in the state.

What is dengue fever?

According to the World Health Organization, Dengue, also known as break-bone fever is a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people. The disease is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which is more common in tropical and subtropical climates.


More often, people with dengue have mild or no symptoms and will get better in 1–2 weeks. Rarely, dengue can be severe and lead to death, according to the WHO

If symptoms occur, they usually begin 4–10 days after infection and last for 2–7 days. Symptoms may include high fever (40°C/104°F), severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, and rash.

However, up to 80% of cases are asymptotic, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

In severe cases, the infection can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Individuals who are infected for the second time are at greater risk of severe dengue.

Symptoms of severe dengue symptoms include; severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums or nose, fatigue, restlessness, blood in vomit or stool, being very thirsty, pale and cold skin, and feeling weak.

Available data show that severe dengue has a mortality rate of between 2 and 5 percent in people whose symptoms are treated. When left untreated, however, the mortality rate is 15 percent.

According to the Center for Disease Control about 1 in 20 people who get sick will develop severe dengue, which can result in death.

Read also: WHO attributes spike in dengue fever to global warming

Who is at risk?

People living in or travelling to areas with a high prevalence of mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus are at risk of contracting dengue fever. This includes many tropical and subtropical regions.

Factors such as inadequate mosquito control, monsoon rains, and stagnant water increase the risk. Anyone, regardless of age, can be affected.

According to the WHO, about half of the world’s population is now at risk of dengue with an estimated 100–400 million infections occurring each year.

Why cases are rising

Cases of dengue fever, are surging around the world. Scientists and public health experts attribute this uptick to climate change and rising temperatures, as well as anthropogenic factors including rapid urbanisation and globalisation. They believe that extreme weather events are helping the Aedes mosquitoes thrive in warm and humid environments, and extend their habitat range.

The Aedes mosquito, which transmits dengue, has moved into new areas of Asia, as well as South and Central America. It is also expanding within Africa, and the warmer regions of some high-income countries, including Australia, the United States, and parts of southern Europe.

The El Niño weather phenomenon, which contributes to warmer temperatures, is also believed to have exacerbated dengue outbreaks in tropical countries.

Additionally, inadequate mosquito control measures and a lack of effective vaccines may also contribute to the rising incidence of dengue fever in some regions.


The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reports that there is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care greatly lower fatality rates of severe dengue.

According to WHO, most cases of dengue fever can be treated at home with pain medicine. There is also a vaccine called Dengvaxia for people who have had dengue at least once and live in places where the disease is common.


According to WHO, Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to avoid getting dengue. The health body notes that the mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day.

Individuals and households have been advised to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, use mosquito repellents, wear protective clothes, and install door and window screens, among other measures to prevent mosquitoes.