Just in case you needed a new reason to fear for your life, a Baylor College of Medicine scientist has co-authored a new study showing that a fatal strain of mosquito-carryin' dengue fever has been in Houston for years. High-five!
"There was dengue circulating, and we had no idea that it was here because we just weren't looking," Dr. Kristy Murray told NPR last week.
According to the story, "about 20 percent of people infected with dengue don't show any symptoms. The other 80 percent can experience high fever, severe headaches, rashes and vomiting. And in really bad cases, a variation called dengue hemorrhagic fever can make a person's capillaries leaky and bleed."
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The study, published in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases (our second-favorite zoonotic diseases journal, after ZQ), indicates that an outbreak may have occurred here in 2003, but physicians may have suspected West Nile virus -- dengue simply wasn't on anyone's radar.
The study also tells us that "the last documented outbreak of dengue fever in the Houston area was the 'Galveston outbreak' of 1922, in which over 500,000 cases of DF were found along the Gulf Coast..."
Dengue virus is "the most common vector-borne viral infection worldwide, with increasing geographic expansion and an estimated 96 million clinically apparent infections each year," the study states.
Well, we've been warned. We're dousing ourselves in bug spray, and, just to be extra-careful, we are never again leaving the house.