Old and new viruses spread by air travel, crowding

Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:39pm EDT
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tourists traveling by plane and the growth of cities are combining to help new and old infections spread around the world, experts said on Monday.

Viruses such as Chikungunya and dengue fever are finding new homes or returning to places where they were eradicated, the researchers told an infectious diseases meeting.

And new methods of diagnosing infections have led to the discovery of dozens of viruses causing often-serious disease.

"As urbanization spread, so did the mosquito," Duane Gubler of the University of Hawaii told a news conference at a joint meeting of the American Society of Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Researchers at the Pan American Health Organization told the meeting that dengue fever, which can cause mild illness or deadly hemorrhagic disease, has come back after decades of eradication successes in Latin America.

They said 1.03 million cases of dengue were reported in the 1980s and 2.7 million in the 1990s, but 4.6 million were reported from 2000 to 2007.

The "re-emergence of epidemic dengue is closely associated with global urbanization and global transportation," Gubler said. "Pathogens of all kinds -- many of them actually move in infected people but they also move in infected animals and mosquitoes."

New infections are a threat, as well.   Continued...

<p>People queue at check-in desks in the new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow Airport in London March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>