University of Nebraska Medical Center

Peru Suffering Worst Dengue Outbreak In Its History, Over 146K Cases


Peru is suffering a very bad outbreak of something that’s been nicknamed “break-bone fever”—dengue. In fact, it’s been a historically bad outbreak, as in the worst dengue outbreak that the country has ever had. The outbreak has already left over 146,000 people infected and at least 248 dead. It’s also resulted in the resignation of Rosa Gutiérrez, MD, from her post as Peru’s Minister of Health amidst questions about her handling of the outbreak. And don’t expect Peru to get a break from this outbreak any time soon.

That’s because El Niño and Cyclone Yaku brought lots of rain to the northern portions of Peru during the months of April and May. And such conditions have led to a situation that really bites and sucks: surge in the mosquito population. That’s included a surge of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that can carry any of the four different types of dengue viruses out there and infect you by biting you.

Dengue is not a fun illness to have—very few things nicknamed “break-bone” are. Only about one in four infected with the dengue virus will develop symptoms. That may sound good but in the words of Run-DMC, it’s tricky. When you have asymptomatic dengue, you may not even realize that you have dengue unless you’ve gotten a blood test to establish the diagnosis. While getting infected with one type of dengue virus may help your develop immunity against that specific type, it won’t do so for the other three types. In fact, it can raise your risk of having worse dengue when infected by other types of the dengue virus. Not realizing that you’ve had dengue before may leave you unaware that you’re at greater risk for developing severe dengue. Dengue can be a bit like hearing the song, “Who Let The Dogs Out?” It can be a lot worse the second time around. It is more common to have mild dengue. Mild dengue typically consists of two to seven days of fever along with nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle pain, joint pain, bone pain, or eye pain. Don’t let the “mild” moniker mislead you, though. Dengue fever ain’t like Bieber Fever. It earned the nickname “break-bone fever” because the pain can feel like someone is breaking your bones.

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