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Over 3 million dengue cases reported in the Americas: Climate change may be a factor


Posted: Friday, July 28, 2023. 3:07 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: According to a recent report from Nature.com, there has been a staggering increase in the incidence of dengue in the Americas this year. More than three million cases have been reported, making it the second-highest annual incidence of the disease since the Pan American Health Organization began recording data in 1980.

“We do observe an increase in cases beyond what was expected for this period,” stated Cláudia Codeço, an epidemiologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as cited by Nature.com. “Whether the record of 3.2 million cases reported in 2019 will be broken in 2023 depends on how the disease spreads in Central and North America.”

Identifying the exact cause of the surge is challenging, given that dengue is caused by four closely related viruses, or serotypes. However, researchers suggest rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns could explain the increasing trend.

According to the same source, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary vector of dengue, thrives at temperatures around 30 °C and in humid conditions. Global warming and extreme weather events have made these conditions more common in recent years.

Severe dengue can be fatal. So far this year, more than 1,300 people have died from dengue in the Americas.

Notably, the disease is spreading to regions previously too cold for the A. aegypti mosquito. For instance, in Brazil, which has reported nearly 2.4 million cases this year, the disease is expanding into southern states. Similarly, Mexico City, situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters, saw its first A. aegypti invasion in 2015.

José Ramos-Castañeda, a virologist at the Mexican National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, noted on Nature.com that global warming is impacting the mosquito’s distribution, and consequently, the potential spread of the disease.

In addition to geographical expansion, rising temperatures might also be contributing to a lengthening of the dengue season. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, increasing global temperatures could extend dengue seasons by about a month on either end.

Furthermore, the ongoing El Niño weather event, which brings floods, droughts, and record temperatures, could increase dengue transmission, according to a warning from the World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Controlling dengue transmission has become a matter of paramount importance. Strategies include mosquito control efforts and the development of modified mosquitoes incapable of transmitting the disease. Yet, as Ramos-Castañeda emphasized on Nature.com, the key factor could be “immunity in the population”. Two dengue vaccines have been approved in certain locations since 2015, but adoption has been slow due to efficacy issues, safety concerns, and high costs.

The recent surge of dengue cases underlines the urgent need for continued research, preventative measures, and perhaps most importantly, a greater understanding of the intersection between climate change and disease transmission.


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