Dengue fever and malaria are both viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Both diseases share common geographic areas and dengue fever is also prevalent in urban areas of the tropics. Dengue fever and malaria share similar symptoms; dengue fever is often misdiagnosed as malaria.
The symptoms of dengue fever and malaria are quite similar; initially, people infected with either disease may display fever, chills, sweating, headaches, nausea, body aches and general malaise. The malaria virus has an incubation period of 7 to 30 days, and a dengue fever virus has an incubation period of 3 to 15 days. Both malaria and dengue fever can have severe complications; dengue fever can cause dengue hemorrhagic fever, and malaria can cause acute kidney failure and metabolic acidosis.
Malaria is caused by female Anopheles mosquitoes, and dengue fever is caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Unlike the mosquitoes that cause malaria, dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes bite during the day. Mosquitos who spread both diseases do so by biting an infected person and then biting a non-infected person. Malaria is one of the most common viral diseases in the world and is a large public health problem in developing nations.
Travelers and locals are at risk for dengue fever and malaria in tropic and subtropic regions; dengue fever has also become increasingly prevalent in urban areas of such regions. Malaria is particularly endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where it causes the death of hundreds of thousands of people every year, mostly children. Areas that are at particular risk include Central America, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Southeast Asia and parts of South America.
There is no vaccine for dengue fever or malaria, but preventative drugs are available to reduce the risk of contracting malaria. These prophylactic drugs must be taken daily or weekly and are generally only a reasonable option for visitors to malaria-stricken areas; local populations are not often able to afford the cost of continual medication. Additional precautions to prevent malaria and dengue fever are the wearing of long pants and long-sleeved shirts, use of mosquito netting and mosquito repellant that contains DEET.
Because malaria and dengue fever are particularly common in developing nations that experience remarkable poverty, drugs and medications are not reasonable to treat most cases. Instead, researchers are working at developing vaccinations. Governments are also working on ways to eliminate the disease-carrying mosquito populations, but such progress is slow and difficult to enforce.
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