By: Jobin Kurien and Biji Kurien

Dengue infection occurs in over 100 countries, with about 100 million cases of dengue fever and more than 100,000 cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever recorded every year (see 'A killer arises: the global resurgence of dengue').

The virus is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which can also spread a rare viral fever called chikungunya. Chikungunya shares dengue's symptoms of chills, headaches, a rash and severe joint pain. Unlike dengue, however, blood loss is rare and shock is not observed. It has been reported in several developing countries, including India, where about 180,000 cases have been recorded since December 2005.

Control of mosquitoes carrying these viruses should be the top priority in countries with high infection rates.

Studies show that containers used for collecting latex from tropical rubber trees are key breeding sites for A. albopictus. The combination of warm temperatures, residual rubber, fallen leaves and monsoon rainfall are ideal conditions for mosquitoes.

Reports also show that improper disposal of plastic cups near food outlets in developing countries provide rich breeding grounds for these mosquitoes.

Simple precautions such as proper hygiene, or turning latex collection cups upside down during the monsoon season, can easily prevent the breeding of these, and other, mosquitoes.

Greater public awareness, through education and legislation, can help limit future A. albopictus breeding and reduce the incidences of dengue fever and chikungunya.