MANILA, Philippines - The rise in dengue cases not just in the Philippines but in other parts of Asia has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) this month to declare that dengue is one of the fastest-emerging infections in the world.
In a statement, WHO said "much of Asia continues to be in the grip of dengue fever, with the number of hospitalizations and severe cases growing."
|Photo from World Health Organization
The agency said some countries have reported significant increases in dengue outbreaks as compared to the same period last year.
It also said that an estimated 2.5 billion people are at risk globally from dengue, and more than 70% of them reside in the Asia Pacific region.
Among the badly affected countries cited are the Philippines, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Singapore also has dengue cases but according to WHO, it is experiencing a declining trend, with total number of cases over the years continuing to fall.
It said this could be partly due to an effective outbreak and response system which includes intersectoral collaborations during and between outbreaks.
Why dengue cases are increasing
The WHO pointed out that a number of factors have caused the increase in dengue cases.
These include higher temperatures and rainfall in many parts of the region this year, growing population densities, and greater international travel.
In some countries, the rise in dengue cases may also be due to higher awareness levels and better surveillance systems.
While no firm evidence point to global warming as the ultimate culprit, climate change has played an important role. Because of climate change, mosquitoes are now found in areas where they were once uncommon, including the Republic of Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Keep environment clean
Since dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes breeding in still water, WHO called for a more concerted effort in keeping the environment clean.
"Given the trend, it is vital that communities adopt a cooperative approach in the fight against dengue," said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO's Regional Director for the Western Pacific. "Keeping the environment clean and eliminating mosquito breeding sites are the most effective ways to prevent dengue."
Dengue-carrying mosquitoes breed in such places as containers which can hold water, as well as among improperly managed garbage, in building sites, and in flower pots.
Dengue is said to be particularly prevalent in substandard housing areas with poor sanitation.
WHO advised the public to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent, mosquito coils and mats, mosquito nets, and by wearing protective clothing. No vaccine has yet been developed for dengue.
Diagnosing dengue fever in its early stages and prompt supportive treatment can help prevent it from becoming more severe and leading to death. The principal symptoms to watch out for are high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding of the nose or gums.