Dengue cases rise to record levels across Asia

Dengue cases rise to record levels across AsiaOver 40 per cent of the world’s population is now at risk from dengue, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported.

In recent months thousands of people have been struck down by the sometimes lethal illness which is spread by the mosquitos. In the past six months Malaysia recorded over 80,000 cases while India, Philippines, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka are all experiencing major spikes in the disease.

In Philippines, more than 40 people have died as alarmed health authorities report that the number of dengue cases is double that recorded last year. Efforts are focused on containing major outbreaks in three provinces surrounding the capital, Manila. Cavite province has declared a state of calamity, triggering national government aid to boost its dwindling medical resources. The other affected provinces reporting significant spikes in dengue this year are Bulacan, north east of the capital, and Pangasinan, in west central Luzon. Just this week Metro Manila joined the list, reporting a 90 per cent increase in dengue over last years infection rates.

India has also seen a surge in dengue outbreaks across different parts of the country. In recent months an unprecedented 6,500 reported cases have been recorded in the capital Delhi.

Dengue is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics with 400 million people become infected with the disease annually; of this number, 75 per cent reside in the Asia Pacific region. The aedes aegypti mosquito can breed in small amounts of fresh water and the consequences of rapid urbanisation, unchecked development and changing temperatures associated with climate change, are some of the factors associated with the prolific increase in the disease. In its most dangerous haemorrhagic form dengue causes internal bleeding, and seriously ill patients need transfusions of blood.

In its last year report, ‘Dengue, turning up the volume on a silent disaster’, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) highlighted how over 40 per cent of the world’s population is now at risk from dengue. Over the past 50 years, the disease has spread from nine to over one hundred countries, a 30-fold increase in global incidence, making it the most rapidly spreading vector-borne disease.

“Dengue is preventable and evidence shows it can be contained”, explains Xavier Castellanos, regional director of the IFRC in Asia Pacific. “The fight against dengue requires long term programmes that focus on prevention through building awareness and behaviour change at the community level. It also requires a shift in approach from responding to isolated outbreaks to investment in strategies that cover effective vector control, access to health services and early clinical management.”

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