Dengue endemic in Southeast Asia
About half of the world’s population is now at risk of dengue according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A mosquito-borne viral infection, dengue causes a severe flu-like illness that is now spread across more than 125 countries. Also called the ‘break bone fever’, the dengue outbreak of 2019 is one of the worst outbreaks in years.
One of the main reasons for dengue cases to have soared is climate change. Rising temperatures and increased rainfall coupled with prolonged monsoons have given rise to ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. If excess rains have proved ideal for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito to breed, the one that transmits dengue, another climate change phenomenon, droughts, also enable the Aedes to thrive. People living in drought-hit zones collect water in containers which are ideal spots that help the dengue mosquito to reproduce. Approximately 390 million dengue infections each year surface, as per the WHO’s key facts issued in November 2019, dengue is mostly found in tropical and subtropical climates.
Falling in the tropical category, Indonesia is one of the countries that is worst hit by dengue. About 110,921 cases of dengue were reported in the first 10 months of 2019. According to Indonesia Dengue Fever: Status, Vulnerability, and Challenges, “In Indonesia, the incidence rate (IR) of dengue fever reported an increase in almost every year since the first cases were found in 1968, from 0.05 to ~35–40 per 100,000 population in 2013. Currently, about 80% of regencies/cities had been infected and posed as very high vulnerability of spreading the disease. Increased incidence of dengue fever is associated with the increase of rainfall and temperature in particular years.” It further mentions the provinces that have the most prevalent cases of dengue including East Hava, West Java and Central Java.
In Singapore, the situation of dengue is also grim. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the island nation’s government agency website, ‘the total number of reported dengue cases is 14,327. The number of dengue cases has steadily increased over the past five weeks.’ As per NEA, six of the largest dengue clusters are located at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 2, Jalan Grisek, Elias Road, Jurong West Street 61, Jalan Chermai and Begonia Lane as of November, 2019.
Cambodia is also majorly affected by dengue. As per the Update on the Dengue Situation in the Western Pacific Region by the WHO in October, 2019, ” a total of 629 dengue cases were reported through the Cambodia Early Warning Response Network. The number of suspected cases reported in (the last week of October) decreased compared to the previous week but remains over the alert threshold level.”
With warmer earth, diseases such as dengue, are bound to soar for mosquitoes thrive in warmer temperatures. Dengue is a cyclical disease, that is an outbreak of it happens every few years, will occur more often. To raise awareness amongst the public, both the public and private sectors could initiate dengue awareness drives that focus on possible preventive measures. Community and town halls could have weekly or bi-weekly meetings where activities could be planned to clean the neighbourhood. Further, it is important to take individual measures to prevent oneself from getting bit by an Aedes aegypti.
According to the WHO’s dengue control strategies, it is better to wear clothes ‘that minimize skin exposure during daylight hours when mosquitoes are most active. This affords some protection from the bites of dengue vectors and is encouraged particularly during outbreaks’. Use of repellants and mosquito nets are the other ways of protection.
Another effective strategy to fight the Aedes aegypti is to eliminate its breeding grounds that prevail in households; for instance, it can thrive in ‘container habitats’ like plastic bottles, jars and buckets. For this reason, such habitats should be removed, or covered with a netting that prevents the mosquito from entering the habitat.
It is the responsibility of citizens to prevent climate-related diseases by taking proactive measures to stay safe and help fight climate change. Taking proactive measures can help build healthy societies and assist in preventing the spread of climate-related diseases.