The world is witnessing an unprecedented surge in dengue fever cases, with over 5 million infections reported so far in 2023. The outbreak has sparked grave concern among health authorities as the mosquito-borne viral disease expands its global footprint.
Tenfold Increase In Cases Over A Generation
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue cases have increased tenfold over the last 20 years. Over the last five decades, the incidence of the disease has increased thirty-fold.
In a statement this week, the WHO said dengue is now endemic in over 100 countries, exposing nearly 4 billion people globally to the risk of infection. Dengue has been detected in areas it wasn’t previously seen before, including higher latitudes and altitudes as rising temperatures open up new regions for mosquito habitats.
|Reported Dengue Cases
Multiple Factors Driving Spread
Experts cite multiple factors that have aided dengue’s spread in recent years:
Climate change: Rising temperatures allow mosquitoes to thrive in new areas and transmit the virus for longer periods annually.
Rapid urbanization: Increased urban density enables greater transmission between humans by mosquitoes.
Globalization: International travel and trade help introduce dengue to new regions.
Virus evolution: The dengue virus has evolved into multiple serotypes, making repeat infections more likely.
Weak mosquito control: Lack of effective vector management programs in many countries.
Worst Outbreaks In Asia & Latin America
Many parts of Asia and Latin America are experiencing their largest dengue outbreaks on record. Countries reporting high caseloads in 2023 include:
- Brazil: Over 2.9 million probable cases, including 1,486 deaths
- Bangladesh: 105,000 cases until November
- Philippines: Over 460,000 cases
- Singapore: 34,000 cases
- Thailand: 195,000 cases, the highest in 30 years
The Americas accounted for over 2 million dengue cases in 2023. Europe saw its first sustained local dengue transmission this year.
Multiple Serious Implications
The swelling dengue surge has several serious implications, per health experts:
- Overburdened health systems risk collapse in outbreak zones
- Economic losses from debilitating disease sapping productivity
- With COVID still circulating, risk of co-infections leading to severe illness
- Spike in Aedes mosquitoes also raises odds of spreads of Zika, yellow fever, chikungunya
Urgent Action On Multiple Fronts Needed
To halt dengue’s ascent, the WHO is urging coordinated urgent action on multiple fronts by member countries:
- Scale up vector control programs focusing on mosquito larvae elimination
- Develop dengue vaccines and make them widely accessible
- Enhance clinical care capacity to treat severe dengue
- Expand lab networks to enable surveillance of viral serotypes
- Raise public awareness to avoid mosquito bites and eradicate breeding grounds
The WHO also calls for cutting greenhouse emissions worldwide. It projects climate change could expose 6 billion people globally to dengue risks by 2080 – over half the projected world population.
Long Battle Ahead To Contain Global Spread
With dengue cases breaching 5 million globally, 2023 is set to rank among the worst years for the disease. The winter months ahead may provide temporary relief for some countries nearing the end of the traditional dengue season.
But with climate change-driven increases in ambient temperature and rainfall, experts warn more parts of the world could see year-long dengue transmission make the virus endemic. Absent concerted action, the battle to contain dengue’s global spread could last many years.
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