News / Asia

Dengue Cases Rise Sharply in Southeast Asia

Simone Orendain

Southeast Asia is experiencing an increase in dengue fever cases.  In some countries the number of victims has nearly doubled, including the Philippines, where health officials say the number of dengue cases reported this year is up nearly 90 percent from last year.  

From January through mid-August about 63,000 cases were reported throughout the country.  At least 465 patients died from the disease.

The rise is the result of several factors, including better reporting of cases and faster detection said Eric Tayag, the head of epidemiology at the health department. Tayag said the current drought in the Phillipines is exacerbating the problem.

"We had problems of water supply in wider areas in the country.  So many [people] began to store water and these were not covered.  So this caused the multiplication of mosquitoes," said Tayag. Standing water is an ideal mosquito breeding ground.  

Dengue is endemic in Southeast Asia, and many other tropical countries in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Sometimes called breakbone disease, dengue can cause fever, severe headaches and joint pain, and internal bleeding. 

It can lead to a potentially deadly hemorrhagic fever, which brings on extensive bleeding from the nose and gums, and internally. Children are especially vulnerable to hemorrhagic fever.

This year the mosquitoes in the Philippines are carrying multiple strains of dengue, said the health department's Tayag, not just the one that typically surfaces.  Still, he said the number of cases is not at epidemic levels.

Officials in the Philippines expect a total of 80,000 dengue cases by year's end.  But relief is in sight, said Tayag.

"On the country level, most cases will occur during the rainy months, peak in August and then begin to decrease after that."

For much of Southeast Asia, the rainy season starts in June or July and continues through September.

For the same January through August period, Thailand saw dengue cases rise more than 90 percent.  Vietnam also has reported increased cases. Governments are urging citizens to clear standing water around homes to reduce mosquito breeding grounds and to take other measures to avoid being bitten.

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