Surge in number of cases reported . . .
In Nepal, the number of reported cases of dengue fever has increased five-fold this year. Other countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and others in and beyond Asia – have also reported spikes in the number of cases. Although dengue fever has been around for centuries, frequent epidemics have only been reported since the 1940s. Today, an estimated 10,000 deaths and 100 million cases are reported every year, 70 per cent of which are in the Asia Pacific. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the year 2019 will be the worst year ever recorded.
Climate change, urbanization at the root of the problem . . .
Climate change exacerbates the crisis as dengue-carrying mosquito larvae proliferate in warm and humid tropical climates. Urbanization also enables the proliferation because of increased contact between humans and mosquitoes, especially where sanitary conditions are poor. The disease can provoke severe flu-like symptoms and causes death in one per cent of cases, mostly among children, the elderly, and pregnant women. So far, no vaccine or medicine has proven effective in treating the disease.
Vietnam a possible model of resiliency . . .
Vietnam may be one country that has found a way to tackle the disease. It has been developing a dengue-forecasting model using satellite data on precipitation and atmospheric pressure, as well as health and water information gathered on the ground. Such a model could help policy-makers in other countries anticipate and prepare for possible dengue outbreaks. As Vietnam’s initiatives show, governments can play an important role in controlling the spread of disease – for example, by raising awareness and promoting sanitary practices, and by strengthening health systems, especially where the disease is rampant. In the long term, however, the fight against climate change will be the most effective way to cope with dengue fever and similar diseases that thrive in tropical climates.