By Opija Raduk

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about the alarming rise in dengue fever cases worldwide, with approximately half of the global population at risk of contracting the viral infection.

The escalating effects of global warming have led to a high record number of Dengue fever infections worldwide.

According to Dr. Raman Velayudhan, Head of the Global Programme on control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at WHO, an estimated 100 to 400 million cases are reported each year, with 129 countries affected.

“The American region alone has reported about 2.8 million cases and 101,280 deaths,” said Dr. Velayudhan.

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is transmitted through mosquitoes and poses a significant health threat, especially in tropical and subtropical regions.

While most people infected with dengue experience mild or no symptoms and recover within one to two weeks, some individuals may develop severe dengue, requiring hospitalization.

The risk of severe dengue is particularly high in cases of secondary infection, which occurs when a person contracts the virus a second time.

Dr. Velayudhan expressed concern over the rapid increase in dengue cases globally. In just over two decades, the number of reported cases has multiplied eightfold, reaching over 4.2 million in 2022.

Asia bears the greatest burden of the disease, accounting for around 70% of all cases. However, Europe has also witnessed outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya infections since 2010, with the Aedes mosquito responsible for transmission in approximately 22 European countries.

Various factors, including climate change, increased mobility of people and goods, urbanization, and water and sanitation issues, have contributed to the spread of dengue fever.

Interestingly, the mosquito responsible for dengue transmission can survive even in water-scarce environments, making it a year-round threat in both flood and drought situations. The virus and mosquito population multiply rapidly in higher temperatures, exacerbating the problem.

As of now, there is no specific treatment for dengue fever, and testing for the disease can take several days to yield reliable results.

However, there is hope on the horizon, with several new tools under development to aid in the prevention and control of dengue. Better diagnostics and antiviral drugs are currently being explored in clinical trials, offering promising prospects.

In light of the escalating dengue threat, the WHO emphasizes that prevention is crucial. Since the Aedes mosquito is active during the day, people must take proactive measures to protect themselves. These include using mosquito repellents, coils, and sleeping under mosquito nets at home, school, and work.

The WHO’s call for vigilance and preventive actions is a stark reminder that dengue fever remains a major global health concern. By raising awareness and taking effective measures, countries can reduce the burden of this mosquito-borne disease and safeguard the health of their populations.