Millions of people worldwide, particularly in the Western Hemisphere regions, have been infected with dengue fever this year, marking „the most common dengue fever in recorded history.“
In 2023, around five million cases of dengue fever and 5,500 deaths were reported in 20 countries, the highest number since recording began in 1980. Of these, more than four million cases and 2,000 deaths were reported in the Americas and the Caribbean, breaking the previous record set in 2019.
„This year is the year we’ve seen the most cases of dengue fever in history,“ said Thais dos Santos, adviser for surveillance and control of arbovirus diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, the regional office of the World Health Organization in America.
Global dengue cases have increased by 30% compared to the previous year and by 18% compared to 2019.
The rise in cases is related to increasing temperatures and rapid urbanization, along with factors such as poor sanitation and the absence of robust healthcare systems. Experts believe that droughts and floods due to climate change have attracted more mosquitoes and led to a stronger transmission of the virus.
„Vector-borne diseases, especially mosquito-borne diseases, give us a really good indication of what’s happening with climate change,“ said Santos.
According to Dr. Gabriela Paz-Bailey, head of the dengue department of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Puerto Rico, hotter temperatures have expanded the mosquito’s habitat. It has also contributed to faster growth of the virus within the mosquito, leading to a higher viral load and increased transmission of infections.
„These infections are a symptom of some major underlying trends in the world. Climate change seems to be so hard to combat, and so many countries are urbanizing now, I can imagine that dengue fever and other diseases are going to become more and more prevalent,“ said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the WHO’s chief scientist.
According to the WHO, approximately 129 countries are affected by dengue fever, putting about half the world’s population at risk. The dengue fever-causing virus is transmitted by infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Signs of Dengue Fever
Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, fever, rash, muscle pain, swollen glands, and eye pain. While most people recover from the infection within a week, some individuals, especially with repeat infections, can experience life-threatening complications. Signs of severe dengue fever include persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, bleeding from the gums, in urine, and under the skin, rapid breathing, and fatigue.
Prevention of Infections
- Vaccination – The CDC recommends the use of a dengue vaccine for children aged 9 to 16 years who have previously had a dengue infection and live in areas where the infection is common.
- Preventing Mosquito Bites – To prevent mosquito bites, experts recommend the use of mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, and protective clothing.