Prompt Action Needed On Dengue
World Health Organization is urging countries in the South-East Asia Region to take prompt action to prevent and contain outbreaks of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral illness.
The number of reported dengue cases has increased in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand compared to last year. Indonesia has twice the number of cases this year (compared to 45 777 cases during the same period in 2005). Myanmar and Thailand are seeing increases of 29% and 17 %, respectively, in the number of dengue cases over the same period.
Many other countries in Asia and the Pacific are already facing an unprecedented increase in dengue this year.
Experience from previous years shows that in countries such as India, including the capital, New Delhi, dengue outbreaks begin to increase from August onwards soon after the monsoons.
According to Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, "Dengue is a man-made problem related to human behaviour", which is affected by "globalization, rapid unplanned and unregulated urban development, poor water storage and unsatisfactory sanitary conditions. These factors provide an increase in the breeding habitats of the mosquito."
The dengue virus spreads through the bite of the infectious female Aedes mosquito, primarily Aedes aegypti, which breeds in artificial containers and improperly managed garbage where clean or clear water accumulates. Since dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever are ecological diseases, prevention is the key to effective control. Surveillance of vectors and the disease are both very critical because outbreaks of dengue are generally preceded by increased vector populations in local areas.
"Vector control, such as the control of mosquito breeding in domestic and peri-domestic areas, is imperative for prevention of dengue. This requires the full participation and mobilization of the community at the individual and household level," said Dr Jai P. Narain, Director of Communicable Diseases for WHO SEARO.
Individuals, families, community support groups, self-help groups, NGOs, local authorities and departments of health need to work together to address the current situation because dengue is everyone's concern. Individuals can take simple steps such as emptying all water containers at least once a week and ridding their surroundings of containers that collect rain water, which will help to prevent the laying of eggs by the mosquitoes that are the dengue vector.
Aedes mosquitoes bite only in the daytime, unlike malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Often persons infected with dengue suffer from mild flu-like symptoms, and may not realise they have the disease. Aside from joint pain, dengue victims experience rashes, nausea and headaches. But some also suffer a potentially fatal form called dengue haemorrhagic fever, which causes internal bleeding and circulatory failure. Aspirin should be avoided in cases of dengue fever, as it is known to increase the tendency to bleed. Physicians and clinicians are urged to follow national guidelines for case management of dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever.
No vaccine has yet been found for any of the four strains of dengue virus, and none of the four confer immunity from the others.