“Sri Lanka is making progress in the battle against mosquito-borne dengue fever, say health officials,” IRIN reports. According to the health ministry, 26,722 dengue cases were reported in 2011, down from 34,105 cases in 2010, and the number of dengue-related deaths dropped from 246 to 172, IRIN notes. Officials credit the establishment in May 2010 of an “anti-dengue Presidential Task Force — involving the ministries of health, defense, the environment, education, and local government, and headed by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa” — for the drop in cases, IRIN writes. The agencies worked together to launch widespread education campaigns, “clea[n] up areas suspected of being mosquito breeding grounds,” and impose fines for illegal dumping, according to the news agency (12/29).
“Philippine authorities are warning of the spread of diseases in cramped evacuation centers, days after flash floods hit the southern Philippines and claimed more than a thousand lives,” ABC/Asia Pacific News reports, noting that flooding also has affected the country’s northern provinces, displacing at least 50,000 people (Escalante, 12/20). Tropical Storm Washi “hit the main southern island of Mindanao over the weekend, bringing heavy rains, flash floods and overflowing rivers that swept whole coastal villages away,” forcing 44,000 people to evacuate the area, Agence France-Presse/Inquirer News writes (Celis, 12/21). Officials say hundreds of thousands of people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and the U.N. has stepped up its efforts in the area, the U.N. News Centre reports (12/20).
Inter Press Service interviews Maria Guadalupe Guzman, head of the Pedro Kouri Institute (IPK) Department of Virology and director of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre for the Study of Dengue and its Vector, who is leading of a team of Cuban researchers working to develop a vaccine against dengue. In the interview, Guzman discusses Cuba’s contributions to the field of dengue research, the influence of climate change on the transmission of dengue, and differences in the four strains of the virus (Grogg, 11/15).
GM Mosquitoes Show Promise In Tackling Insect-Borne Diseases, Study Shows; Some Concerned Over Possible Unintended Consequences
“Genetically modified mosquitoes could prove effective in tackling dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases,” according to the results of a study by a U.K.-based scientific team published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Sunday, BBC News reports (Black, 10/30). “In the 2010 trial, conducted on Grand Cayman island, researchers released 3.3 million male mosquitoes that had been genetically altered in such a way that they were born sterile, meaning they can’t have viable offspring,” which “triggered a population collapse,” the Wall Street Journal writes. “‘We saw an 80 percent reduction in the target area’ compared with the mosquito population in a similar zone where genetically tweaked males hadn’t been released, Luke Alphey, co-founder and chief scientist at Oxitec Ltd., the U.K. start-up behind the experiment, said in an interview,” according to the newspaper (Naik, 10/31).
Cambodia’s director of dengue control at the Ministry of Health, Ngan Chantha, said on Monday that from January to September of this year, 12,392 cases of dengue fever had been reported and 54 children have died of the disease, Xinhua reports. In all of 2010, 5,497 cases of dengue and 37 child deaths from the disease were recorded, according to the news agency.
“More than 12,000 have been infected and 125 people have died over the past two months in Pakistan after coming down with dengue fever, a health department spokesman said Friday,” CNN reports (Habib, 10/1). Citing the same numbers, WHO spokesperson Tarek Jasarevic said the agency is providing support for “case management, community mobilization, vector control and public awareness campaigns,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “Last year, 11,024 confirmed cases of dengue fever and 40 deaths were reported in Pakistan, but this year the number of cases has climbed to 12,466,” the news service writes (9/30).
“An outbreak of dengue fever in Mandera, northeastern Kenya, is spreading fast, with at least 5,000 people infected within weeks, due to limited health facilities, a shortage of medical personnel and poor sanitation, officials told IRIN.” The news service writes, “A statement by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation on 26 September said four deaths from the disease had been confirmed but, according to Mandera residents, at least 10 people have died since early September when the outbreak started.”
In this GlobalPost opinion piece, Zulfiqar Bhutta, Husein Laljee Dewraj professor and head of the Division of Maternal and Child Health at the Aga Khan University Medical Center in Karachi, Pakistan, and Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and former director of the Division of Vaccines and Immunization at PAHO, examine the need for a dengue fever vaccine as Pakistan struggles to curb an outbreak of the disease that to date has killed 60 people and has infected more than 8,000. “The need for a dengue vaccine is clear,” and “[w]ithout a vaccine to prevent dengue, we must redouble our efforts to effectively treat this infectious threat, starting with improving diagnostics,” they write.
Pakistan Officials Ask For International Assistance As Dengue Fever Outbreak Overwhelms Local Resources
BBC News reports on a continuing outbreak of dengue fever in Pakistan’s Punjab province, where “more than 8,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported … so far — 7,000 in Lahore alone — and the count continues to rise,” according to the Punjab health department. According to the news service, “Doctors say more than 30 people have died of the fever so far” in the province, and “[h]ealth officials estimate that more than 7,000 people are being tested daily for the virus — 300 to 400 test positive each day” (Haq, 9/23).
“On top of a raging insurgency and devastating seasonal floods, Pakistan is reeling from a particularly acute outbreak of dengue fever that has left local authorities scrambling to contain the epidemic” and has put a strain on the health care system, the Washington Post reports, adding that the disease “has already infected thousands across the country and killed as many as two dozen people.” Local government officials have “reacted frantically to the daily increase of cases with a series of measures including school closures, free treatment for dengue patients and large fumigation drives. But some say the response is inadequate and authorities should have focused more efforts on prevention,” the newspaper writes.