In the past three weeks, the number of dengue fever cases in Vietnam have grown to 43,000 cases nationally, up from 36,000 cases on Sep. 13, seriously pushing the health care system to the brink.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

During the first nine months of the year, the number of cases are up 30 percent compared to the same period in 2014. 28 people have died from dengue related illness so far in 2015. In certain areas, the difference is more staggering. Khanh Hoa Province, for example, has seen a 322 percent increase in cases this year.

According to Dr. Tran Dac Phu, head of the Preventive Health Department under the Ministry of Health, The epidemic has spread to 53 out of the country’s 63 provinces and cities.

The epidemic is also taking a toll on the strained health care system. Ho Chi Minh City Pediatric Hospital reported seeing 2,099 inpatients this week. The hospital only has 1,400 inpatient beds. In addition, approximately 1,000 outpatients are being seen daily in the facility.

Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Taiwan are also seeing spikes in dengue fever. Some are suggesting temperature increases brought on by El Niño may be a part of the picture.

Upswings in dengue cases follow a cyclical pattern, and it had already been predicted that 2015 would see such an upswing in Southeast Asia, Igor Kossov reports in the Phnom Penh Post

Though the exact effects of temperature changes on dengue fever are still under investigation, an international study published in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week found that surges in dengue cases occurred “synchronously” across Southeast Asia during El Niño years.

“Our analysis shows that periods of elevated temperatures can drive the occurrence of synchronous dengue epidemics across the region,” wrote researchers, which included American universities and health ministries across ASEAN.

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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