Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics and is transmitted through a simple mosquito bite. In mild cases it causes severe fever and an achy body, but this sometimes fatal virus can also lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma and death.  The incidence of dengue has increased drastically in recent decades, but it’s not something that many Americans will ever encounter. It’s certainly not something that Hunt Cramer, a fifteen year-old high school sophomore from South Carolina, ever thought he would have to worry about.  

This summer, Hunt journeyed to Chang Mai, Thailand on a month-long volunteer trip, hoping to have an impact on the local population through his service. Hunt couldn’t have imagined just how big of an impact this trip would have on his life.

Shortly after Hunt’s return to the U.S., he became weak and developed an intense fever. He was quickly admitted to the intensive care unit where his kidneys, liver and gall bladder began to fail – Hunt was experiencing a hemorrhagic fever and shock from dengue infection.  Over the next few days, Hunt battled back to life and made a near full-recovery, though his spleen is still too enlarged to return to the football field this fall.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 500,000 people are hospitalized with severe dengue annually. Of those affected, about 2.5% die each year. Hunt was lucky, and he is not taking his renewed health for granted. Since his recovery, he has taken no time off and has been working tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for the treatment and prevention of dengue. Through a combination of t-shirt sales and speaking events at his high school, Hunt has raised more than $1,000 for this cause. We are honored to announce that Hunt has decided to donate this money to the Sabin Vaccine Institute to help us continue our important work on neglected tropical diseases. Sabin is a member of the Dengue Vaccine Initiative, a consortium whose mission is to encourage the development and use of vaccines to prevent dengue, and is comprised of programs working to reduce needless suffering from  many other vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases affecting the most vulnerable people around the world.

Hunt is grateful for his new outlook on life stemming from his experience in Thailand, for the people he met there and the lessons he learned. Although his summer didn’t go quite as planned, he has embraced this challenge as an opportunity to fight for the health of people around the world and we are humbled by his support of Sabin’s work. We appreciate Hunt sharing his experience with us and commend him for his tremendous strength and achievements.

To read an article on Hunt’s efforts, click here.