During the dog days of summer when a lack of air conditioning forces one to make the not-so-difficult choice between opening the windows or baking to death, the number of mosquitoes, flies and other insects that gets in the house can be a bit maddening at times. Window screens are virtually non-existent here, so the bugs have an open invitation to visit, even now in fall when I'm just looking to let in a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately, mosquitoes have transcended the limits of mere annoyance and are now posing a major health threat here in Argentina.
An outbreak of dengue fever that was mostly confined to the country's northern provinces has now spread to the capital and other locations in the province of Buenos Aires, where I'm currently living. The following text is an excerpt of an alert issued by the U.S. Embassy in regards to dengue fever:
Some Dengue Fever Cases Confirmed in Buenos Aires
This Warden Message, a follow-up to our message of March 27, 2009, is to alert U.S. citizens in and traveling to Argentina that the Argentine Ministry of Health reported 10,594 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Argentina as of April 12, 2009. Up until recently, cases had been restricted to the northern Argentine provinces of Chaco, Salta, Catamarca, Tucuman, Corrientes and Jujuy, however 107 cases have now been confirmed in the capital and in Buenos Aires Province. The Health Ministry reported that all suspected and confirmed cases in Buenos Aires had been imported from the most affected provinces, but media reports said that at least five infected people had not traveled outside of the capital region. Dengue fever is a mosquito-transmitted illness, for which there is no vaccine, and no specific treatment. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a rare, more severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease.
Read the full alert at The Argentine Post.
Here are the signs and symptoms of dengue fever according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- severe headache
- pain behind the eyes
- joint and muscle pain
- hemorrhagic (bleeding) manifestations
"Usually dengue fever causes a mild illness, but it can be severe and lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which can be fatal if not treated. People who have had dengue fever before are more at risk of getting DHF." 
Mosquito-borne illnesses such as yellow fever and dengue are not new to Argentina, but the number of cases is most certainly on the rise. An article in the journal Nature states that "dengue has become the world's most widely spread vector-borne disease over the past decade, according to Ricardo Gürtler, a dengue researcher at the University of Buenos Aires. Largely driven out of Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, dengue's comeback has been linked to factors such as climate change, urbanization—which has been particularly rapid in Latin America—and decreased use of pesticides that reliably kill the mosquito vector."  More specific information about dengue fever's reemergence in Argentina can be found in the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
In the meantime, if you are living in Argentina or traveling to areas where dengue fever may be a threat, please visit the CDC's website to read more about dengue and preventive measures that you can take to protect yourself.
[Photo credit: James Gathany]