Asean in war against dengue

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 10 Aug 2019

Making a stand: Protesters against Dengvaxia displaying placards at a rally outside the Department of Health in Manila as they demand accountability over the controversial immunisation programme. — AP

Manila: As hundreds die in a severe dengue outbreak in the Philippines, many of them children, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he was open to lifting his government’s blanket ban on the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Manila prohibited the import, sale and distribution of the drug – manufactured by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi – after parents blamed it for the deaths of several dozen children who were among more than 700, 000 people immunised in a state-run trial programme.

After the Dengvaxia scare caused Filipinos to shy away from vaccines, the country was hit with measles and dengue outbreaks that have so far killed nearly a thousand people this year.

The government declared a dengue epidemic on Tuesday.

While he was “in a quandary” regarding the use of Dengvaxia, Duterte said the perceived risk had to be weighed against the 662 deaths from out of the 146, 000-plus dengue cases monitored by the government so far this year.

“Yes, I am open to the use of Dengvaxia again. So many people are dead. It’s an epidemic. Now compare it vis-a-vis, with those who died (allegedly due to the vaccine), ” Duterte told reporters yesterday.

Dengue, or haemorrhagic fever, is the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus and infects an estimated 390 million people in more than 120 countries each year–– killing more than 25, 000 of them, according to the World Health Organisation.

It said Dengvaxia is now licensed for use in 20 other countries.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque had said on Tuesday that Dengvaxia was not recommended by the WHO for combating outbreaks, and in any case was not for children aged below nine who were the most affected in the current epidemic.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in Vietnam reported 9, 449 dengue cases the week ending July 21 with eight out of 10 people requiring hospitalisation for their illness.

The number of cases has been increasing since April. Since Jan 1, there have been a total of 115, 186 cases with 12 deaths reported, a 3.3-fold increase compared to the same period in 2018 of 34, 773 cases including nine deaths.

Indonesia have been involved in the war against dengue since January. It’s worst month was in February and March.

Jakarta Post reported that the capital city has entered a dengue fever extraordinary situation alert period that lasted until early April.

Attempts to pin down patterns to predict and help overcome dengue have proven largely futile.

While mostly children were afflicted in previous years, the patients are now more spread across different age groups, physicians and researchers say. Dengue seems not to be limited to the rainy season, though that is the peak time of the disease.

Laos said last week that it has already recorded 15, 559 dengue fever cases with 34 died of the disease, according to the Lao News Agency KPL. The fever cases are expected to hit more than 17, 000 this month.

The Laos’ Ministry of Health has sent officials to remote areas to guide locals how to prevent the mosquito-borne disease as well as to kill mosquito larva.

At the same time, the ministry has popularised preventive measures against dengue fever through the mass media and Facebook, while encouraging people to seek medical assistance when they find any symptom of the disease.

Meanwhile, with Thailand facing its worst dengue outbreak in half a decade, people of all ages have been advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites and control the Aedes aegypti mosquito population.

The Department of Disease Control has assured that the authorities are fully prepared to cope with the dengue outbreak, but the department cautioned that the current dengue outbreak situation was worrisome.

According to the recent situation report of the Bureau, in just the first half of this year 40, 402 dengue cases had been reported in Thailand, 1.6 times higher than in the same period of 2018.

In Singapore, experts said it could see more cases of dengue than usual in 2019 after a lull of a few years, but it is not clear what is causing the current spike.

Dengue cases rose to 666 in the second week of July, which the National Environment Agency said was the highest recorded in a week since a previous peak in January 2016, when the number of cases hit 637.

As of last month, there were more than 7, 500 recorded cases of dengue in Singapore, about five times more than the 1, 481 cases in the same period last year. Five people have died from dengue during the January-July period.

Since June in Myanmar, the number of people affected by the monsoon rains has reached more than 100, 000, per the account of the Disaster Management Department.

With the rains has come a surge in cases of dengue fever. And to avoid the seasonal disease, doctors have advised people to stay fit and eat food and drinks that strengthen the body’s immune system.

The situation is also bad in Bangladesh, Myanmar’s neighbour and home to many Rohingya.

The country is grappling with its worst outbreak of dengue fever, with hospitals packed with patients as the disease spreads rapidly in the densely-populated country.

At least 14 people have died and more than 17, 000 have come down with the virus so far this year, according to official figures, making it the deadliest year since the first recorded epidemic in 2000. — Agencies

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