So far in 2023 mosquito-borne disease has infected 5 million, killed 5,500

The year is coming to an end, but the dengue outbreak across the globe has refused to show signs of abating with over five million cases and 5,500 deaths so far.

The vector-borne disease has forced governments and public health experts to sound the alarm.

While dengue has hitherto been considered native to warm climatic areas, it is now emerging in regions where it had been generally unheard of, including parts of the US and Europe.

According to an analysis by Save the Children, five million cases of dengue fever have been recorded so far in 2023 than in the last five years, annually. The infections were reported across 20 of the worst-impacted countries between January and November 2023.

“This marked a 30 per cent increase in cases compared to the entirety of 2022 and 18 per cent more than the figures in 2019, when the world saw its most recent major outbreak,” Save the Children said.

Dengue deaths in 2023

Dengue killed at least 5,500 people across the 20 countries, up 32 per cent from 2022 and up 11 per cent compared to 2019. “The actual number of deaths and cases is likely to be far higher as many cases are not reported,” the analysis report stated.

Worldwide dengue outbreak

California reported its maiden case of locally-transmitted dengue virus in October, while Sudan’s capital Khartoum in March for the first time reported a patient infected by the disease.

A risk assessment report published on Tuesday by the Pan-American Health Organization said 2023 is the year with the highest historical record of dengue cases in the Americas where more than 4.1 million new infections were reported.

This number of infections exceeded those of 2019, the year in which more than 3.1 million cases were registered, including 28,203 serious cases and 1,823 deaths.

Bangladesh faced its worst dengue fever outbreak on record in 2023 with more than 300,000 people infected since January, an analysis by Save the Children found. There was a massive spike in the number of infections from 62,000 cases reported in 2022.

Also, Bangladesh reported 1,598 – including more than 160 children (mostly aged below 10), dengue deaths, the highest known global causality due to the disease. It was also more than five times higher than 2022.

In Peru, at least 50 children died and another 80,300 were infected with dengue this year in the worst epidemic of the disease that the country has seen in over a decade. The country recorded more than 270,000 cases of dengue in 2023, which was almost four times the 74,000 cases in 2017, the last El Niño year in the country.

Burkina Faso in West Africa reported 511 dengue deaths this year, marking a sharp rise from the 18 deaths reported in 2017 and 15 in 2016 — the last years for which data is available. According to the country’s Ministry of Health, probable cases are at almost 50,000.

“The lack of robust dengue surveillance and management systems raises concerns about potential undetected cases or unrecorded travel movements that could contribute to unnoticed disease spread,” said the Pan-American Health Organization in its assessment report.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the world’s population is now at risk of dengue with an estimated 100–400 million infections occurring each year.

Currently, there is no antiviral treatment for dengue and precaution as well as timely diagnosis, along with medicine can help manage the symptoms of the disease.

How does dengue spread?

Dengue, most commonly, spreads through infected female Aedes aegypti (Egyptian tiger) mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water, passing from one person to another through mosquito bites.

The disease can also be transmitted from pregnant women to their babies, and, in rare cases, through blood transfusions, organ transplants, or needle injuries.

Dengue has long been a public health concern in Asia and Latin America and recently it has seen a surge attributed in part to the resurgence of global travel after the COVID pandemic. This year’s El Niño weather phenomenon, which contributes to warmer temperatures, is also believed to have exacerbated dengue outbreaks in tropical countries.

Dengue symptoms

Dengue, or break-bone fever is a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people. Mostly, those who get infected by dengue do not show symptoms, but those who do, witness high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, and rash. Most of this gets better in one or two weeks.

These symptoms usually begin 4–10 days after infection and last for 2–7 days.

People who are infected for the second time are at greater risk of severe dengue which can be fatal

Severe dengue symptoms often come after the fever has gone away and include severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums or nose, fatigue, restlessness, blood in vomit or stool, being very thirsty, pale and cold skin, and feeling weak.

After recovery from dengue people may feel tired for several weeks.

Precautions from dengue

To reduce the risk of dengue, avoid mosquito bites, especially during the day.

Most cases of dengue fever can be detected early and treated at home by administering pain medicines.

There is no specific treatment for dengue. The focus is on treating pain symptoms.

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is often used to control pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin are to be avoided as they have the chance to increase the risk of bleeding.

For people with severe dengue, hospitalization is often needed.

There is a vaccine called Dengvaxia for people who have had dengue at least once and live in places where the disease is common.

With inputs from agencies

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