“Man-made catastrophe” – Virologist warns: Dengue fever will soon spread in Germany

Dengue fever, HIV and also Covid-19 – according to the Mainz virologist Bodo Plachter, the increase in viral diseases is a result of human misconduct towards the natural environment.

As Plachter says, with man-made global warming, diseases are to be expected in Central Europe that were previously limited to the tropics. “We will therefore very likely experience that dengue fever, for example, will also spread to us,” says the scientist.

Global warming leads to the spread of diseases

Dengue fever is a high fever viral disease that is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. According to the Tropical Institute, dengue is the most common mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. In this country, the disease primarily occurs in travelers who have traveled from countries such as Southeast Asia or South and Central America.

Typical contagion countries are Thailand, India, Indonesia or Brazil. In the meantime, infections in countries in southern Europe are also possible. The first infections were detected in travelers to southern France and Croatia in 2010. Even in the German summer, the mosquitoes can survive. The number of diseases in this country is also steadily increasing:

  • According to the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), almost 300 people fell ill in 2009,
  • In 2016 there were already 1029.

Mosquito species survive German winters

The problem: Normally, certain mosquito species die out in our latitudes in winter. With global warming, however, it can be expected that those who have not been able to survive the German winter will also survive, explains Plachter. This also applies to the dengue virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito – also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.

Thanks to the increased temperatures, the mosquito has the opportunity to spread further and further. It mainly occurs in urban areas. The female mosquitoes lay their eggs near small accumulations of water – for example in buckets, old tires, flower pots or rain barrels. Infected female mosquitoes then transmit the dengue virus directly to their brood.

Viruses want to multiply

According to Plachter, the danger posed by viruses varies. “Viruses don’t want to make us sick,” emphasizes the scientist. “Their only goal is reproduction and – as is associated with this everywhere in nature – the preservation of their own species.”

A dengue infection is usually accompanied by a high fever and severe headache, muscle, bone and limb pain – hence the name “breakbone fever”. After a sudden increase in fever and subsequent decrease in fever, the temperature rise again after a day or two.

Symptoms of the dengue virus – the “breakbone fever”

A large-scale skin rash then often occurs, which may affect the entire body – but not the face. Small hemorrhages in the skin and mucous membranes are also possible. After being bitten by an infected mosquito, the symptoms usually appear after three to 14 days.

The typical symptoms are:

  • Sudden rise in fever up to 40 degrees Celsius: often lasting for two to four days, palpable slow pulse
  • chills
  • Severe states of exhaustion
  • headache and body aches
  • joint and muscle pain
  • other possible symptoms: conjunctivitis, skin rashes, spleen and lymph node swelling

Those affected usually recover within a few days. If the course is mild, the symptoms last a maximum of three days. However, dengue fever can also lead to serious complications and even death.

Severe course can lead to death

Complications can occur with the so-called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and the Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) – occur primarily in children. These are expressed as follows:

  • Rapid increase in fever
  • Vomit
  • shortness of breath
  • headache
  • Massive coagulation disorders with severe bleeding, for example in the skin and mucous membranes, nosebleeds, bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract with vomiting of blood
  • In addition: drop in blood pressure, circulatory collapse – usually two to six days after the onset of the disease

An infection with the dengue virus is usually detected via the blood through the detection of the pathogen and antibodies specifically directed against dengue viruses. Treatment has so far been limited to relieving the symptoms. There is also no vaccine against the virus yet.

Corona pandemic as a “man-made catastrophe”

According to Prachter, in addition to the dengue virus, the spread of the corona virus is also one of the “man-made disasters”. “Sars-CoV-2 was only able to spread so rapidly because we are penetrating deeper and deeper into areas where animals live that humans have hardly come into contact with before.” Many scientists think it is likely that it is Covid -19 is a zoonosis – an infectious disease that can be transmitted in both directions between animals and humans.

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Humans narrow the habitat of animals

As the scientist explains, the main reason for the pandemic is the close contact with the animals: “If the living space for animals is further and further restricted, people increasingly come into contact with the pathogens that occur in them.” He cites chimpanzees as an example and gorilla-borne precursors to HIV. “Viruses that are transmitted to humans can adapt to this new host through mutations.”

“We are penetrating further and further into natural areas,” says Plachter. “The animals that live there are pushed out and then come to our cities like wild boar and fox.”

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