Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a virus of the same name, is also referred to as breakbone fever, but that should be the least of your concerns…what you need to worry about is a complete system shutdown.
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Most commonly found in tropical regions, dengue puts 40-50% of the global population at risk. With symptoms ranging from fever, rashes, painful joint and muscle aches and vomiting, dengue symptoms can resemble the flu, but it can become life-threatening in a much different way.
Seeker spoke with Dr. Shannon Bennett from the California Academy of Sciences. Dr. Bennett is the curator of microbiology and the chief of science—in addition, she also studies the genetic makeup of dengue viruses.
To understand how dengue spreads, it helps to start with how it gets in.
Enter, the mosquito: specifically a species called Aedes aegypti.
Once the dengue virus gets in through the skin, it will eventually find its way into your lymph nodes and, then, bloodstream. And what is dengue’s primary target? White blood cells.
For those who find themselves sick as a result of dengue fever, sometimes the illness can take a dramatic turn leading to hemorrhagic fever and shock. This happens when your body’s antibodies respond to a second infection of dengue but don’t neutralize the virus the same way they would with the first strain you were exposed to.
Learn more about the disease coined the breakbone fever on this episode of SICK.
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SICK is a new series that looks at how diseases actually work inside our body. We’ll be visiting medical centers and talking to top researchers and doctors to uncover the mysteries of viruses, bacteria, fungi and our own immune system. Come back every Tuesday for a new episode and let us know in the comments which diseases you think we should cover next.
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