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Doctors are describing the mosquito-borne dengue fever outbreak in Cairns, a regional city in Far North Queensland, as an epidemic. At least 170 cases—161 people in Cairns and nine in Townsville—have been reported in recent weeks.
Fear has gripped area residents as the epidemic picks up speed. Authorities have warned the public to prepare for the worst outbreak in decades.
“We are really concerned how quickly the number of cases have grown, how quickly it has moved to a range of different suburbs, the short incubation time which makes it difficult to control and the fact it’s making people sicker…People are getting sicker than we normally see and children are getting sick, whereas previously children weren’t necessarily getting sick,” said Linda Selvey, Queensland Government’s senior director of population health (The Australian).
An estimated 20,000 people die worldwide each year from dengue fever, which has been extending its reach into subtropical regions. It is transmitted to people through the bites of virus-infected mosquitoes. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, eye pain and rash. Presently, no treatment exists for the virus.
Dr. William Ardrey, "who heads biotech company Acuvax, said human trials of a vaccine that could protect against all four strains were only six months away—but a number of regulatory hurdles would have to be leapt over before it would be widely available” (Gold Coast).