In the span of two weeks, the number of dengue fever cases have increased by 14,000, according to updated data from the Philippines Department of Health Tuesday. For the period of Jan. 1 to Sep. 5, 2015, health officials put the dengue tally at 78,808. Today’s newly released numbers put the cumulative total to 92,807 through Sep. 19.
The Department of Health says this year’s numbers are a 23.5-percent increase from that during the same period in 2014.
The regions of Calabarzon and Central Luzon accounted for more than three out of 10 cases on the archipelago.
The updated numbers in the Philippines comes one day after a study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has shown that epidemics of dengue, which is caused by a mosquito-borne virus, across southeast Asia appear to be linked to the abnormally high temperatures brought by the El Niño weather phenomenon.
Now, as the most intense El Niño in nearly two decades is emerging in the Pacific, the finding – reported in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – may be a harbinger of a spike in cases of the dangerous hemorrhagic fever throughout southeast Asian countries early next year.
“Large dengue epidemics occur unexpectedly, which can overburden the health care systems,” said lead author Willem G. van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. “Our analysis shows that elevated temperatures can create the ideal circumstance for large-scale dengue epidemics to spread across a wide region. The ability to predict and prepare for these epidemics should lead to more effective disease surveillance and control efforts.”
In many countries, reported cases of dengue wax and wane during the rainy season following a repeating annual cycle. So far, it has been difficult to predict when these epidemics will become unusually large, spreading beyond country borders.
“This study will contribute toward a better understanding of the cyclical nature of dengue,” said co-author Lam Sai Kit, Ph.D., professor at the University of Malaya in Malaysia. “Based on the extensive data analyzed and the conclusions reached, it will help to improve early warning systems for impending large outbreaks in the region. Now that the new El Niño has started, these findings will help us prepare for a worst-case scenario, and immediate measures can be taken to counter its effect in the next few months.”
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch
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