Climate Change and Mosquito Spread Drive Surge in Dengue Cases
Record 5.2 Million Reported Cases in 2019
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning regarding the alarming increase in reported cases of dengue worldwide. According to the WHO, the number of cases has skyrocketed tenfold over the past generation, with the Americas being the most affected region. Factors contributing to this surge include climate change and the growing spread of virus-carrying mosquitoes.
Potential Underestimation of Actual Toll
In 2019 alone, a record 5.2 million cases were reported across 129 countries, a significant rise from the 500,000 cases reported in 2000. However, experts believe that these numbers may actually underestimate the true toll of the disease. The WHO had previously issued a warning in January, highlighting dengue as a pandemic threat and the fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world.
Limited Treatment Options
While vaccines and specially bred mosquitoes containing the bacteria Wolbachia have been developed to combat dengue, there are no specific treatments available once someone becomes infected. This year, over 5 million cases and more than 5,000 dengue-related deaths have been reported, according to the WHO.
Climate Change and Poor Surveillance
The changing distribution patterns of dengue-carrying mosquitoes, coupled with increased rainfall, humidity, and heat associated with climate change, have played a significant role in the rise of dengue cases. Additionally, weaker health systems and inadequate surveillance have contributed to the spread of the disease.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
While many cases of dengue are asymptomatic or cause mild illness, severe infections can lead to shock, severe bleeding, and organ impairment. These symptoms typically emerge after the fever subsides. The WHO has highlighted warning signs including intense abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding gums, fluid accumulation, lethargy or restlessness, and liver enlargement. Repeat infections can result in severe disease, including hemorrhaging and death.
Regional Impact and Vaccination
Dengue has swept across the Western hemisphere, particularly impacting the Americas, the Caribbean, and Bangladesh. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Peru have reported the highest number of cases worldwide, leading Peru to declare a state of emergency in certain areas. Although there are two licensed vaccines for dengue, experts advise caution in their use, recommending one of them only for individuals who have previously been infected to avoid the risk of more severe disease.