Loop Caribbean writes that, while COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc globally, another pandemic has been quietly making its way through the Eastern Caribbean: dengue.
Dengue fever is back, and like most unwanted and unwelcome visitors, it can’t leave soon enough!
Earlier this week, Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Health recorded approximately 900 cases of the mosquito-borne disease. Medical Officer of Health, Dr Glensford Joseph said in a statement, that as of October 24, the island had recorded 888 confirmed cases and 365 suspected cases of dengue fever.
Meanwhile, St Vincent and the Grenadines is currently experiencing the most severe dengue fever outbreak in its recent history. Health officials recorded 1155 confirmed infections and six fatalities.
The last dengue fever outbreak in St Vincent and the Grenadines was in 2012 when 200 cases were reported. According to Barbados’ Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George, at least 38 people have been hospitalised with confirmed or suspected cases of dengue fever. To date, he said there have been 301 suspected cases, eight of which have been confirmed.
The British Virgin Islands has recorded 69 confirmed cases of dengue fever forcing health officials to amplify efforts to contain the spread.
Dengue Fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that has rapidly spread in all regions of WHO in recent years. Dengue virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. albopictus. These mosquitoes are also vectors of chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses. Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics, with local variations in risk influenced by rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and unplanned rapid urbanization. The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades.
A vast majority of cases are asymptomatic or mild and self-managed, and hence the actual numbers of dengue cases are under-reported. Many cases are also misdiagnosed as other febrile illnesses. The number of dengue cases reported to WHO increased over 8 fold over the last two decades, from 505,430 cases in 2000 to over 2.4 million in 2010, and 4.2 million in 2019. Reported deaths between the year 2000 and 2015 increased from 960 to 4032. This alarming increase in case numbers is partly explained by a change in national practices to record and report dengue to the Ministries of Health, and to the WHO. But it also represents government recognition of the burden, and therefore the pertinence to report dengue disease burden. Therefore, although the full global burden of the disease is uncertain, this observed growth only brings us closer to a more accurate estimate of the full extent of the burden.