Dengue Cases Increase Due To El Niño

Dengue cases in the Philippines are nearing the 100,000 mark according to the Department of Health.

 

Several provinces in the country already declared state of calamity as hospital beds are occupied by dengue-infected patients.

 

Since January to September 19, data shows that there are 92,807 dengue cases; it is 23.5 percent higher than last year. Thankfully, the number of deaths is lower this year than in 2014.

 

The top three highest cases in the country are Central Luzon which has the highest number of dengue patients at 14,127 followed closely by Calabarzon with 14,082 and NCR with 10,385.

 

Ilocos region, Northern Mindanao, Cagayan Valley and Soccsksargen follows the list.

 

New study:

 

International researchers believe that dengue fever cases can become an epidemic in Southeast Asia due to the El Niño weather phenomenon.

 

Researchers studied the 18 years of monthly dengue surveillance across the region and found a trend in the 3.5 million reported cases in eight countries. The highest number of cases was reported during the last particularly strong El Niño season in 1997-1998.

 

El Niño  experts forecast that this El Niño  season would persist until next year and is expected to be among the most intense in 20 years.

 

El Niño ’s high temperature is the perfect weather for mosquitoes to reproduce faster and spread dengue virus more. Experts believe that “elevated temperatures can create an ideal circumstance for large-scale dengue epidemics across a wide region.”

 

Countries in the tropics and subtropics are most susceptible to the mosquito borne virus due to higher temperatures caused by El Niño  with 400 million are infected each year.

 

The lead author of the research, Willem van Panhuis, assistant professor of epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health said that “Large dengue epidemics occur unexpectedly, which can overburden the health care systems.”

 

From January to September this year, dengue cases are also reported from Bangladesh, Brazil, Dominican Republic, India, Malaysia, Singapore ,Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) created a map showing dengue alerts in the past 3 months: Dengue Map

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that dengue cases dramatically increases in recent years putting half of the world’s population at risk.

 

Key facts about dengue

  • mosquito-borne viral infection

  • causes flu-like illness

  • may occasionally develop into a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue

  • found in tropical and subtropical climates

  • thrives in urban and semi-urban areas

  • severe dengue is the leading cause of children’s death in some Asian and Latin American countries

  • no specific treatment for dengue

  • early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rate by 1%

  • prevention and control solely depends on effective vector control measures

Source: WHO

 

Dengue virus is mainly transmitted by female Aedes Aegypti  mosquitoes. Unlike most mosquitoes, Aedes Aegypti feeds during the day and at night time when lights are on.

 

The virus in mosquitoes incubates in 4-10 days, the mosquito is then capable of infecting anyone for the rest of its life.

 

Infected humans serve as source of the virus for uninfected mosquitoes within 4-5 days or 12 days maximum.

 

Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) or severe dengue was first recognized in the 1950s during an epidemic in the Philippines and Thailand. Severe dengue now affects most Asian and Latin American countries.

 

There are 4 distinct serotypes of the virus – DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, DEN-4. Recovery from any serotype of the virus makes a person immune to that serotype only.

 

People who recovered from one serotype and become infected by another serotype has an increased risk of developing severe dengue.

 

Symptoms

 

Principal symptoms of dengue are:

High fever and at least two of the following:

  • Severe headache

  • Severe eye pain (behind the eyes)

  • Joint pain

  • Muscle and/or bone pain

  • Rash

  • Mild bleeding manifestation (eg. Nose or gum bleed, or easy bruising)

  • Low white cell count

Source: CDC

 

Children and those who gets infected by dengue for the first time generally have milder illness that older children and adults.

 

Close observation is still necessary after fever declines 3-7 after the symptoms began

 

Warning signs

  • Severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting

  • Red spots or patches on the skin

  • Bleeding from nose and gums

  • Vomiting blood

  • Black, tarry stools

  • Drowsiness and irritability

  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin

  • Difficulty breathing

Source: CDC

 

If any of these warning signs are present, go to an emergency room IMMEDIATELY.

 

Treatment and Immunization

 

Unfortunately, no drugs and vaccines are available for dengue yet.

 

Persons infected with the virus can take analgesics or pain relievers containing acetaminophen.

 

AVOID ibuprofen, Naproxen, aspirin and aspirin containing drugs.

 

Taking lots of fluid to prevent dehydration is necessary. Rest is also recommended.

 

Those clinically diagnosed with severe dengue are given fluid replacement therapy. Hospitalization is usually recommended.

 

Prevention and Control

 

The risk of dengue cases are influenced by rainfall, temperature and unplanned rapid urbanization.

 

These dengue carrying mosquitoes bite during day time and even at night when lights are on.

 

The best way to protect against dengue mosquitoes is to eliminate its habitat by:

 
  • Environmental management and modification to rid the mosquitoes’ egg-laying habitats

  • Disposing solid waste properly

  • Removing artificial man-made habitats

  • Covering, emptying and cleaning of water storage containers weekly

  • Clean other things like pet watering containers, flower planter dishes, vases and anything that may hold water in and out doors.

Other protective measures:

 
  • Place household protection such as window screens, coils and vaporizers.

  • Use repellent on skin

  • Eliminate mosquitoes you find indoors

  • Use bed net or air conditioning.

 

In addition, participate in community efforts to control dengue mosquitoes.

 

Dengue infections had been around for a long time and while there is no cure or vaccine available we should be vigilant in protecting ourselves against mosquito bites.

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