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Forget the Pandemic: New Record Virus in Asia Sees ‘Exploding Numbers’

Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:03 PM
Joseph Young
Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:03 PM
  • The number of dengue virus cases in South East Asia is rapidly increasing.
  • Restrictive measures to combat the pandemic could worsen the situation.
  • Scientists fear a “bad year” in 2020 in combating the virus.

As the world battles the pandemic, Asia is fighting against the dengue virus. Some scientists say that the number of cases is starting to “explode.” 

Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease physician, based in Singapore, said:

We are seeing exploding numbers of dengue in South East Asia.

Countries like Singapore and the Philippines typically suffer from the virus seasonally. But, this time, Leong says he fears a “bad year” is brewing due to the virus.

Source: CNBC 

Why the Dengue Virus is a Problem in South East Asia

The dengue virus is not transmitted from person to person. Unlike the ongoing pandemic, there is a lower risk of an epidemic caused by the virus.

But the threat of widespread infections can increase when many people are already infected.

A person can get infected by dengue with a bite from a female Aedes mosquito carrying the virus. While the virus cannot spread from person to person, an uninfected mosquito could get the virus from an infected person.

The World Health Organization says: 

Dengue cannot be spread directly from person to person. However, a person infected and suffering from dengue fever can infect other mosquitoes. Humans are known to carry the infection from one country to another or from one area to another during the stage when the virus circulates and reproduces in the blood system.

When a large group of people is infected by dengue, it increases the probability of new mosquitoes catching the virus.

Based on the trend of human to mosquito transmission, Leong said an upsurge of new virus cases is likely.

He said:

The more cases there are, the more likely uninfected mosquitoes will bite the infected individual, causing a spiraling of cases upwards. There is no doubt that it is going to be a bad year.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore said in June that it expects cases to reach similar numbers as in 2013 . Seven years ago, Singapore recorded around 22,170 dengue virus cases.

Strict lockdowns and restrictive measures to combat the pandemic are further worsening the spread of dengue. Female Aedes mosquitoes typically inhabit wet areas. A cluster of infected mosquitoes in villages could infect more people that are staying at home due to lockdowns.

Cases Starting to Increase Rapidly

On July 11, the province of Eastern Visayas in the Philippines officially recorded 4,131 cases of dengue. Three days before that, China also reported its first case of the same virus.

dengue virus philippines
Source: GMA 

According to The Straits Times, the number of dengue cases in Singapore is increasing by 250 per day on average. 

There is no specific medicine to treat the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. says individuals tend to recover in about a week.

The main problem with dengue is that the lack of treatment or medical aid could lead to severe cases.

Symptoms of the dengue virus | Source: CDC 

The CDC says severe cases could cause internal bleeding or death . It says:

About 1 in 20 people who get sick with dengue will develop severe dengue. Severe dengue is a more serious form of disease that can result in shock, internal bleeding, and even death.

For now, restrictive measures to prevent the pandemic’s expansion are still intact across many Asian countries. Scientists are closely observing whether new measures are necessary to address the rapid influx of dengue cases.