NEW YORK (Agencies): As global temperatures continue to rise and urbanization expands, Dengue fever is projected to become endemic in parts of the US, Europe, and Africa within the next decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist, Jeremy Farrar.
Farrar emphasized that the disease is likely to gain a foothold in these regions as the mosquitoes responsible for its transmission migrate to previously unsuitable areas in the southern US, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Addressing this looming threat, Farrar stressed the importance of proactive measures to prepare countries for the increased pressure posed by Dengue. He highlighted the need for comprehensive strategies to manage the disease in the densely populated urban areas that will be affected.
Dengue fever has long been endemic in Southeast Asia and Latin America, typically resulting in 20,000 deaths annually. Over the past two decades, cases have surged eightfold, primarily due to climate change expanding the habitat of Dengue-carrying mosquitoes and the rapid growth of cities providing more opportunities for mosquito feeding.
Recent outbreaks have been particularly severe, with Bangladesh currently grappling with its worst Dengue outbreak on record, reporting over 208,000 cases and 1,000 deaths since the beginning of the year.
Europe has also witnessed a notable increase in locally acquired Dengue cases in recent years, surpassing the total for the previous decade. Isolated cases have even been reported in parts of the US, such as Florida and Texas.
Dengue fever is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, distinct from the Anopheles mosquitoes responsible for malaria transmission. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to bite both during the day and at night, and they can be found both indoors and outdoors.
Symptoms of Dengue include fever, muscle spasms, nausea, and, in severe cases, excruciating joint pain, earning it the nickname “bone-break fever.” While most patients recover within two weeks, fatalities occur in less than 1% of cases. Currently, two vaccines are available: Dengvaxia, which requires prior exposure to the disease, and Qdenga, approved in the UK, EU, and several South American and Asian countries last year.