Dengue Cuts a Deadly Path Across ASEAN Countries

The Philippines has been the hardest hit of Asean member states reporting outbreaks of the debilitating and frequently fatal mosquito born disease dengue this year, with more than 720 deaths and a further 167,000 people infected between January 1 and July 27.

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said that the number of deaths being recorded gave the country the alarming title of having the regions highest dengue fatality rate.

Health authorities in the Philippines declared a national dengue epidemic on August 6 as the number of new cases continued to set new records.

To increase treatment capacity some hospitals have erected tents in their carparks and gardens, while bed-sharing is common. The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has also deployed emergency medical tents to assist hospitals in the managing the huge influx in dengue patients.

The DOH said last week that it expected the number of dengue cases will continue to rise until October due to the current wet season.

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) says 64 people died from dengue there between January 1 and July 21, with more than 50,000 infections. In its latest report it forecasts up to 130,000 cases this year, with a ‘failure to control mosquito larvae’ being blamed for this increase.

In Vietnam the Ministry of Health has urged local government units nationwide to ramp up programmes to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds.

More than 115,000 cases of dengue and 12 deaths were recorded between January 1 and August 7, almost three times as many cases as for the same period last year.

In Malaysia the number of dengue cases between January 1 and August 3 almost doubled the 42,496 cases and 70 deaths in the same period last year with 80,000 confirmed cases and 113 death.

With several months of the wet season left to run authorities fear the number of cases could exceed the 120,836 infections and 336 deaths recorded in 2015 during the country’s worst recorded dengue outbreak.

Health authorities in Indonesia have also seen a spike in dengue infections this year with 176 deaths and more than 16,700 confirmed cases, while in Thailand confirmed cases have more than doubled the five year average.

In Singapore where mosquito awareness programs almost date back to independence, nine people have so far died from dengue this year with a further 9,135 cases recorded up to August 2nd; a five fold increase in the number of cases record over the same period in 2018. In the seven days to July 27 610 new dengue cases were reported

Similarly blaming the increase on lax mosquito larvae control, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) says that in the first six months of 2019 it issued 1,200 enforcements to some 8,200 homes for failing to keep their premises free of mosquito-breeding habitats.

Failure to eradicate habitat suitable for mosquitos can see Singapore home owners fined $200 or more. Last year about 4,700 households were fined for not keeping their premises free of mosquito-breeding areas.

In Cambodia the Ministry of Health (MOH) recorded 21,130 cases of dengue between the start of the year and August 1, with 33 confirmed deaths.

Cambodia Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said infection rates have dipped slightly over the past several weeks with 3,933 cases recorded in the third week of July compared to 4,769 the week prior.

In Lao PDR dengue has so far claimed 34 lives this year with 15,559 confirmed cases, more than double the 6,446 cases recorded in 2018. In Myanmar 12 people are confirmed dead as a result of dengue in the first half of this year with a further 3,144 cases.

Authorities across the region have ramped up operations aimed at disrupting the breeding cycle of the Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for dengue, calling on the public to do their bit also.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 2.5 billion people are at risk of contracting dengue worldwide, with 70 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region where global heating is seeing an increase in vector-borne diseases.

In 2015 France-based Sanofi Pasteur developed the first dengue vaccine. It was deployed on a large scale in the Philippines by the outgoing administration of Benigno Aquino III. In December 2017

Researchers found it posed an increased risk to people who had never been previously infected with dengue and it was banned in the Philippines.

Visitors and resident expatriates to Asean member countries are advised to take specific care against being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, applying personal mosquito repellent containing DEET to exposed skin, and sleeping under a mosquito net.