- by Alison Booth

Dengue fever in the Asia Pacific region: A look at trends in 2018

Dengue fever in the Asia Pacific continues to threaten the quality of public health in the region. Increasing populations and warmer climates are among the factors facilitating the spread of the of the mosquito-borne disease worldwide. In recent years, the Asia Pacific region has seen outbreaks increase alongside the burden of dengue. The World Health Organization reports the dengue serotype 2 has been widespread across the region since the start of 2017.

Let’s take a closer look at the dengue trends across the region in the first half of 2018.

Image showing Dengue fever in the Asia Pacific region

Dengue activity across the Asia Pacific

Across the Asia Pacific region, countries are feeling the effects of this year’s unusual climate. For some countries, recent months have been unseasonably wet and warm; for others, monsoons have arrived early.

Thailand

Thailand is experiencing its largest dengue epidemic in more than two decades, with a record number of people infected, according to The Samui Times. With the country now in the middle of its May to September rainy season, health officials are blaming the unseasonably wet and warm weather due to climate change for making the situation particularly bad this year.

Thailand’s Bureau of Epidemiology reported a total of 22,564 cases as of 23rd July. It notes that most of the cases were in age groups 15-24 years old (24.64%), 10-14 years old (22.38%) and 25-34 years old (12.07%). The highest incidence rates were found in students (51.2%) and general laborers (16.7%).

Bangladesh

Now in the middle of its June to September monsoon – and peak transmission – season, Bangladesh’s capital city is bracing itself for another spike in dengue. The incidence of dengue in the capital suddenly increased in July. 93 dengue patients were admitted to hospitals during the first four days of the month after a total of 250 dengue patients were admitted to hospitals throughout June.  Dhaka has had 992 confirmed dengue cases as of the end of July of this year. Dhaka also reports eight deaths of dengue in 2018.

The Philippines

Nationwide, the Philippines saw 53,039 cases as of 7th July 2018, with 289 deaths, according to the Philippine Information Agency. Most of those affected were between the ages of 10 and 14 years. During the first seven days of July, only 412 cases were reported, an 87% drop compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, health officials in the Pangasinan province reported a significant increase in dengue fever cases during the first five-plus months of 2018. The Pangasinan Provincial Health Office (PHO) recorded 1,398 dengue cases as of 11th June, compared with just 592 cases during the same period last year – a 136% rise. Fatalities have also risen, to six in the first five-plus months of 2018 from four during the same period in 2017.

The Aklan region is also reporting a rise in the first six-plus months of 2018 with 696 cases, compared to 536 cases in the same period last year. Youth and young children are most affected by dengue fever in the country with the biggest age group of patients suffering from dengue infections (35%) aged 11 to 20 years.

Malaysia

Nationwide, Malaysia has succeeded in reducing the number of dengue cases and deaths for two consecutive years. The country saw a 16% drop in cases and a 29% fall in deaths in 2016, followed by a 17% fall in cases and 25% in deaths in 2017. The first six months of 2018 looked equally positive with 17,291 fewer cases (a 34.8% fall), and 110 fewer deaths reported compared to the same period in 2017.

The Penang region in northwest Malaysia is not following the same trend. The New Straits Times reports that the region recorded 2,528 dengue cases between January and July this year, an increase of 74.95% compared to last year.

Laos

In Laos, 12 people died in the first six months of this year as a result of dengue fever. The more than 2,426 cases of dengue doubled the number of cases during the same period last year. The country, where the peak transmission runs from May to October, recorded 5,584 dengue cases including 14 fatalities throughout 2017.

Dengue in the Western Pacific

Islands across the Pacific Ocean are experiencing significant dengue outbreaks with more than 39,000 cases reported over the past 18 months, the WHO revealed in a radio interview in June (Click below to hear the broadcast). Serotype 2, which has not been seen in some countries for nearly two decades, is widespread, prompting fears that the virus could spread rapidly. Serotypes 1 and 4 are also in circulation.

Wallis and Futuna

Northeast of Fiji, on 17th July the French Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands reported 203 cases and 23 hospitalizations since September 2017, according to a recent WHO report. The highest cases numbers were in age groups 15-20 years old (44), 10-15 years old (42) and 5-10 years old (22). Of those cases, 16 were imported from outside the territory, from New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Kiribati

The Republic of Kiribati, which comprises 33 coral atolls and isles stretching along the equator, is experiencing an ongoing dengue outbreak. As of 16th July, 1,435 cases had been reported including 32 hospitalizations and two deaths. A recent report from the WHO shows the weekly number of dengue cases is decreasing from peaks.

Read how artificial intelligence is predicting dengue outbreaks and outcomes

The World Mosquito Program is working with the Kiribati government to bring its Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to the republic in a project funded and supported by the Australian Government’s innovation change. In July, the WMP announced that it had commenced releases of mosquitoes with Wolbachia in Kiribati, Fiji, and Vanuatu.


New Caledonia

New Caledonia declared a dengue epidemic back in February of this year. As of 1st June, the WHO reported 1,257 confirmed cases since January including 112 hospitalizations, and two fatalities. The dengue epidemic in 2017 claimed 11 lives and affected over 4,500 people.

American Samoa

The American Samoa dengue outbreak has been ongoing since March 2017, with a total of 978 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak. Since 24th June, American Samoa has continued to see a decline in the ratio of samples that test positive for dengue.

Are you currently in the Asia Pacific region? If so we’d like to know how climate change is impacting your community’s approach to stepping up the fight against dengue this year.

Reducing the burden of dengue around the world will take an international focus. Click below to add your name in support of a Global Dengue Day.

A Global Dengue Day!