The World Health Organisation (WHO) has attributed the spike in dengue fever to global warming marked by higher average temperatures, precipitation, and a longer period of drought.
Raman Velayudhan, WHO’s Head of the Global Programme on Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, told journalists at the UN in Geneva on Friday.
“About half of the world’s population is at risk of dengue, and dengue affects approximately 129 countries.
“We estimate that about 100 to 400 million cases are reported every year. This is basically an estimate, and the American region alone has reported about 2.8 million cases and 101,280 deaths,” said Mr Velayudhan.
Dengue, also called breakbone fever, is the most common viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people.
Most people with dengue do not have symptoms and recover in one to two weeks. But some people develop severe dengue and need hospital care.
According to him, dengue is spread by the Aedes species of mosquito. The disease is more common in tropical and subtropical climates. Its incidence has grown dramatically worldwide in recent decades.
“In 2000, we had about half a million cases, and today in 2022, we recorded over 4.2 million, which really shows an eight-fold increase,” he said.
He said the number could well increase with more and more accurate figures.
Asia represents around 70 per cent of the global disease burden, and the future outlook is bleak, according to the WHO expert.
The Aedes mosquito is well-established in Europe, and dengue and chikungunya infections have been reported for over a decade.
“European countries are also on alert because Europe has recorded an Aedes transmission of either dengue or chikungunya since 2010.
“We have had more outbreaks since then, and it is estimated that the mosquito is present in about 22 European countries,” Mr Velayudhan said.
Numerous factors in addition to climate change have driven the spread of dengue fever, such as the increased movement of people and goods, urbanisation and pressure on water and sanitation.
“The mosquito manages to survive even when there is water scarcity,” the WHO expert said.
“So, both during a flood situation as well as a drought situation, dengue can increase. The virus and the vector multiply faster at a higher temperature. This is a well-known fact,” the expert said.
Dengue fever does not have a specific treatment, and no direct drug intervention is available. Usually, the disease is treated with medicines to treat fever and pain.
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