Dengue fever is no stranger to most Asian people, as it is endemic in most tropical and sub-tropical countries.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated dengue fever as a major international public health problem, affecting not only the locals but also tourists visiting these countries.
What’s alarming is that this mosquito-borne viral disease has recently been reported to be on the rise again, especially in the Southeast Asia Region.
Countries that were badly affected by the recent spike in Dengue Fever cases are the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Health officials in the Philippines declared a national emergency earlier this week after the dengue cases nationwide has reached a cumulative figure of 106,630 since January, making it 85% higher compared to the same period last year.
Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, on the other hand, has announced a dengue hemorrhagic fever epidemic, with 43 total deaths out of 28, 785 patients suffering from dengue.
And thanks to a similar climate and conditions, Thailand’s neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao are also facing the same situation.
Deputy director-general of the department, Dr. Preecha Prempree, attributed the epidemic to failure to control mosquito larvae.
Everyone is at risk during outbreaks, most especially among travelers. Long-term travelers and humanitarian workers going to Dengue-endemic areas are at higher risk.
In some cases, Dengue infection may be asymptomatic (persons do not show any symptoms). But those with symptoms usually get ill between 4 to 7 days following the bite.
Be aware of flu-like symptoms which include a sudden high fever coming in separate waves, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle, joint and bone pain, as well as red spots of skin rash.
High fever can last from 2 to 7 days. Dengue Fever may progress to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and exhibit more severe symptoms. They include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, bruising and uncontrolled bleeding.
Complications can lead to circulatory system failure and shock, which can be fatal.
There is no known cure or medication for the disease. Treatment only includes supportive care of symptoms.
At present, the main method to control or prevent the transmission of the dengue virus is to combat vector mosquitoes through:
Covering, emptying and cleaning of domestic water storage containers on a weekly basis
Applying appropriate insecticides to water storage outdoor containers
Removing artificial man-made habitats, including solid waste habitats
Usage of personal household protection measures, such as window screens, long-sleeved clothes, repellents, coils and vaporizers
When going outside, apply repellent containing 20-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin. Re-apply according to manufacturer’s directions.
Prevent mosquitoes from egg-laying habitats by environmental management and modification
Improving community participation and mobilization for sustained vector control
Malaysia’s Health Ministry has agreed to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in fight against dengue, making it the second country after Australia to use the bio-control strategy.
The way it works in controlling dengue is that the Wolbachia bacteria will stop dengue virus from replicating, so the mosquito does not spread the virus when it bites.
And the bacteria do not pose any danger to humans.
There has been a 92.4% increase in dengue cases nationwide in the first six months of 2019, but since the release of the Aedes mosquitoes injected with Wolbachia bacteria took off early in July this year, a downward trend on the number of dengue cases in Malaysia has been reported.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad added that releasing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes could also reduce dependence on the use of insecticides to control the mosquito population.
The Wolbachia technique was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has been applied by countries such as Australia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore.
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Dengue Situation Update Number 572. (2019). [ebook] Western Pacific Region: World Health Organization (WHO), pp.1-4. Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/wpro---documents/emergency/surveillance/dengue/dengue-20190704.pdf?sfvrsn=b42cfbd0_14 [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].
Dedaj, P. (2019). Philippines declares national emergency after more than 100,000 people contract Dengue fever. [online] Fox News. Available at: https://www.foxnews.com/world/philippines-national-emergency-dengue-fever.
News, C. (2019). Thailand's Declares Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever Epidemic With 43 Dead - CTN News. [online] CTN News. Available at: https://www.chiangraitimes.com/thailands-declares-dengue-hemorrhagic-fever-epidemic-with-43-dead.html.
Iamat.org. (2019). Malaysia: Dengue | IAMAT. [online] Available at: https://www.iamat.org/country/malaysia/risk/dengue.
Timbuong, J. (2019). Health Ministry recruits Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in fight against dengue - Nation | The Star Online. [online] Thestar.com.my. Available at: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/07/07/health-ministry-recruits-wolbachia-infected-mosquitoes/.
Eliminatedengue.com. (2019). Wolbachia. [online] Available at: http://www.eliminatedengue.com/our-research/wolbachia.
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