Outbreak of dengue fever in Southeast Asia is ‘exploding’ amid the coronavirus fight

Municipal staff fumigates an areas of housing complicated in opposition to Aedes Aegypti mosquitos as a measures to manage a dengue outbreak amids Covid-19 pandemic in Wanasari village, Bekasi regency, West Java province, on May 6, 2020.

Aditya Irawan | NurPhoto by way of Getty Images

There’s no respite for Southeast Asian nations.

With health-care methods already below pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, international locations like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are additionally grappling with one other infectious illness outbreak: dengue fever.

“We are seeing exploding numbers of dengue in South East Asia,” Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, a Singapore-based infectious illnesses doctor at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, advised CNBC in an e mail.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) mentioned final week that the island nation is set to surpass its earlier annual report quantity of 22,170 dengue fever circumstances in 2013. As of July 6, greater than 15,500 dengue circumstances have been reported in Singapore, based on the NEA.

“There is no doubt that it is going to be a bad year,” mentioned Leong, commenting on the state of affairs in Singapore even earlier than the NEA announcement.

The extra circumstances there are, the extra doubtless uninfected mosquitoes will chunk the contaminated particular person, inflicting a spiraling of circumstances upwards.

Dr. Leong Hoe Nam

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

Elsewhere in the area, Malaysia’s well being director-general warned final month of a spike in dengue circumstances throughout the nation, native media reported

In Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous nation, native well being officers mentioned in late June there have been 68,000 circumstances of dengue fever countrywide.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the dengue fever threat in most Southeast Asian international locations — with the exception of Singapore — is categorised as “frequent/continuous.”

Dengue’s ‘finest marriage companion’

The spike comes at a time when the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic that has left international economies battered and tens of millions sheltered at house consequently of social distancing measures geared toward curbing the illness.

“Unfortunately dengue met the best marriage partner — lockdown,” Leong mentioned. “With individuals staying at home (because of covid), more are exposed to the dengue mosquitoes breeding in the neighbourhood.”

“The more cases there are, the more likely uninfected mosquitoes will bite the infected individual, causing a spiraling of cases upwards,” he mentioned.

Dr. Duane Gubler, founding director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, agreed.

“People who are stuck at home all the time probably have greater contact with mosquitoes that are infected with dengue,” Gubler mentioned, warning that “greater precautions” wanted to be taken to manage mosquito larvae.

Furthermore, Gubler additionally flagged the hazard of building areas and mentioned they had been a “major breeding site” for mosquitoes, consequently of coronavirus lockdowns.

“The Covid epidemic could very well be influencing dengue transmission,” he mentioned.

Among the Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia at the moment has the highest quantity of coronavirus circumstances at 70,736, based on knowledge compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s adopted by the Philippines which has 51,754 circumstances and 45,423 reported infections in Singapore.

Leong mentioned international locations that higher managed the unfold of dengue in the previous might endure extra this time round.

To examine an infection charges, specialists use a metric often called “Dengue seroprevalence at aged 9 years,” based on Leong.

“In Singapore, less than 9% of the children had Dengue at the age of 9,” he mentioned, referring to that metric. “The figures in the neighbouring countries are way higher: 30-40% in Malaysia, 50-60% in Thailand and Indonesia, 90% in the Philippines.”

For international locations akin to the Philippines, Leong mentioned: “I don’t think it can get worse.”

Instead, it is international locations akin to Singapore and Malaysia which have “a lot more to lose,” he warned. The decrease ranges of herd immunity in the common inhabitants make it simpler for mosquitoes to seek out people with no prior immunity and unfold the an infection, Leong mentioned. 

Herd immunity refers to the state of affairs the place a sufficiently excessive portion of the neighborhood has developed a resistance to a illness by prior publicity to an an infection, decreasing the probability for it to unfold from individual to individual.

‘Critical’ wet season

Looking forward, Gubler mentioned international locations in the area which can be above the equator are “going into a critical time” as they enter the wet season — often between July and November. That interval coincides with elevated transmission for dengue fever, mentioned Gubler.

“My concern stems from the fact that countries do not have the public health infrastructure to deal with either disease, especially dengue,” Gubler mentioned.

He mentioned that with the exception of Singapore, most Southeast Asian international locations have failed to manage the unfold of dengue.

“Every endemic country really needs to take the responsibility to build their own public health infrastructure to deal with diseases like dengue,” Gubler mentioned. People additionally should be educated as effectively, in order that there is sustainability to the packages launched, he added.

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