The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month that global warming could prompt a record number of dengue fever infections worldwide.
More than 300 people have died of dengue fever so far this year in Bangladesh, mostly in the densely populated capital Dhaka, placing a great strain on an already overwhelmed and fragile medical system.
According to the latest government figures, approximately 63,700 people have been infected since January across the South Asian nation in what authorities describe as the deadliest year since tracking began in 2000.
Dengue – also known as breakbone fever – is a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people. It is more common in tropical and subtropical climates, with Asia representing almost 70% of global cases.
Bangladesh’s Health Ministry has required major public hospitals to increase their capacity in hospitals to deal with the rapidly rising number of patients, while the government has launched awareness campaigns to encourage the use of mosquito nets and reduce water accumulation near homes and public venues.
Last month, the Head of the Global Programme on Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Raman Velayudhan, warned that global warming could prompt a record number of dengue infections worldwide, with approximately half of the world’s population at risk of contracting the virus.
Experts blame the spike on higher temperatures and precipitations which, combined with numerous other factors including the increased movement of people and goods and pressure on water and sanitation systems, create the perfect environment for mosquitos to thrive and multiply faster.
“[B]oth during a flood situation as well as a drought situation, dengue can increase. The virus and the vector multiply faster at a higher temperature,” explained Dr. Velayudhan.
Between 2000 and 2022, reported cases went up eightfold, reaching 4.2 million last year after hitting an all-time high in 2019 with 5.2 million cases in 129 countries, according to WHO. As “the world’s fastest-spreading tropical disease,” the UN organisation warned in January that dengue now represents a “pandemic threat.”
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