The World's Megacities Are Making Dengue Deadlier

The World’s Megacities Are Making Dengue Deadlier

Outbreaks are more common now thanks to bigger cities and more places for mosquitoes to live

dengue

An Indian Municipal Corporation sanitation worker fumigates as part of a drive to curb breeding sites for mosquitoes causing a dengue outbreak in New Delhi in October 2015. (RAJAT GUPTA/epa/Corbis)

By Carrie Arnold

smithsonian.com February 2, 2016

While the world’s attention is focused on the Zika virus spreading through the Americas, large urban areas in Southeast Asia are fighting off outbreaks of dengue fever. The mosquito-borne illness causes high fever, rash and debilitating joint pain, and it can develop into a more severe and lethal form. An epidemic this past October swept through New Delhi, sickening more than 10,000 people and killing 41, overwhelming the city’s hospital capacity.

The two species of mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting dengue, Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus, live in close proximity to humans. Our homes are their homes. In urban areas, where most dengue transmission happens, recent housing booms have provided more places not only for humans to live, but also these mosquitoes. The influx of people, increased construction and ongoing travel of humans and mosquitoes around the world have led to a 30-fold rise in urban dengue outbreaks between 1960 and 2010, according to the World Health Organization. Read more.