WHO warns of explosive dengue infections after 5000 deaths in 2023

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The WHO has listed India among the top 30 countries with higher incidence of dengue outbreak. India, in 2023, experienced an increase in cases in Kerala and northeastern States bordering Bangladesh compared to the previous year, said the WHO.

Dengue fogging by MCD

Dengue fogging by MCD

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, December 25: Dengue was the silent killer of 2023, taking a toll of 5000 lives worldwide. Dengue deaths were put into shadows by the scale of casualties on account of the Corona virus since its outbreak in 2020. The global humanity may have to brace up to life with an endemic twin risks of corona virus and dengue.

The new sub-variant of corona virus is leading the fresh wave of infections globally. The JN.1 sub-variant of the corona virus has brought the Covid-19 tests back into practice in India amid reports of deaths due to the infections in Kerala and Karnataka. The WHO has already said that Corona virus is now endemic. Now the WHO has warned that four billion people worldwide may be infected by dengue.

The WHO has listed India among the top 30 countries with higher incidence of dengue outbreak. India, in 2023, experienced an increase in cases in Kerala and northeastern States bordering Bangladesh compared to the previous year, said the WHO.

In its assessment report for the Southeast Asia region, WHO has said that “10 out of 11 Member States are known to be endemic for dengue virus. In 2023, several countries, including Bangladesh and Thailand, have reported a notable surge in dengue cases compared to previous years. In particular, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand rank among the world’s 30 most highly endemic countries”. 

The WHO also stated that “compared to 2022, in 2023, Bangladesh and Thailand recorded a larger number of dengue cases. By November 2023, Bangladesh experienced a substantial rise in cases reaching 308167 compared to 62382 reported for the entirety of 2022. Thailand saw an increase of over 300%, with dengue cases rising from 46678 in 2022 to 136655 in 2023 (as of 22 November 2023). During the same period, the death toll in Bangladesh rose from 281 (CFR 0.45%) to 1598 (CFR 0.52%), while in Thailand, it increased from 34 (CFR 0.07%) to 147 (CFR 0.11%).”

It also stated that “spatial and temporal shifts in dengue patterns were observed in 2022 and continued in 2023”. The WHO stated that the global incidence of dengue markedly increased over the past two decades. It added that from 2000 to 2019, there was a ten-fold surge in reported cases worldwide – from five lakh to 5.2 million.

Delhi national capital region hospitals had also reported a heavy load of dengue patients during August-November period. The reports had also claimed that the dengue strain was more fatal this year.  

The WHO said on Friday while releasing the report that “2023 saw an upsurge in dengue cases globally, characterized by a significant increase in the number, scale, and simultaneous occurrence of multiple outbreaks, spreading into regions previously unaffected by dengue”.

It stated that dengue transmission is cyclic. Large outbreaks every 3-4 years can be expected. The WHO said that “since the beginning of 2023, ongoing transmission, combined with an unexpected spike in dengue cases have resulted in close to a historic high of over five million cases and more than 5000 dengue-related deaths reported in over 80 countries/territories”.

It listed several factors driving an upsurge in dengue cases which included the likes of the changing distribution of the vectors (chiefly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus), especially in previously dengue naïve countries; the consequences of El Nino phenomena in 2023 and climate change leading to increasing temperatures and high rainfall, humidity among others; fragile health systems in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, political and financial instabilities in countries facing complex humanitarian crises and high population movements.

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