Dengue infections on the rise in Asia

The World Health Organization has issued warnings over the growing number of severe cases and hospitalizations from dengue fever seen in much of Asia.

Among the 2.5 billion considered to be at risk globally for the disease, 70 percent live in the Asia Pacific region. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines and Vietnam are considered especially at risk, according to the WHO.

The WHO has attributed the increase in dengue cases to higher temperatures and rainfall in many parts of the region this year, growing population densities and greater international travel. In addition, greater surveillance and better reporting of cases may have been a factor in some areas.

There continues to be no concrete evidence that global warming is tied to the increase in dengue, but climate change in general appears to play a role in its spatial and temporal distribution. Dengue carrying mosquitoes, for example, have increased their range, now including the Republic of Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

"Given the trend, it is vital that communities adopt a cooperative approach in the fight against dengue," Dr. Shin Young-soo, the WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, said. "Keeping the environment clean and eliminating mosquito breeding sites are the most effective ways to prevent dengue.”

Not all areas are experiencing a surge. Dengue rates are actually declining in Singapore. There have been higher rates in the last few months in comparison to last year, but the total number of annual cases continues to fall. This trend may be explained by an effective response system that includes increased cooperation throughout the country in implementing anti-dengue policy.