Dengue Outbreak in Bangladesh: Over 1,000 Deaths and Climate Crisis Connection

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Bangladesh Faces Record Dengue Outbreak with Over 1,000 Deaths

In Bangladesh, the worst outbreak of dengue on record has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people, according to official data. This deadly outbreak is fueled by rising temperatures due to the climate crisis, with more cases being reported outside of dense urban areas for the first time.

Since January, the mosquito-borne disease has caused 1,017 deaths, including over 100 children. The number of infections has also risen to over 208,000, as reported by the Bangladesh Directorate General of Health Services.

Normally, dengue fever peaks during the monsoon season from July to September. However, this year the increase in cases started earlier, towards the end of April. Scientists attribute this early uptick in cases to a prolonged monsoon season with warmer temperatures and irregular heavy rainfall, creating ideal breeding conditions for the Aedes mosquito, which carries the dengue virus.

The influx of patients has overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, resulting in a shortage of beds and staff to provide adequate care. Fatalities from the outbreak are almost four times higher than last year, with over 79,600 reported cases and 396 deaths in September alone.

There is growing concern that the outbreak will continue into the cooler months. Last year, dengue cases peaked in October with most deaths recorded in November.

Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, joint and muscle pains, fever, and, in severe cases, internal bleeding and death. It is spread to humans through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, and there is currently no specific treatment for the disease.

While dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries worldwide, outbreaks have typically been confined to densely-populated urban centers. However, this year infections rapidly spread to every district in Bangladesh, including rural areas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has pledged the agency’s support to the Bangladeshi government in strengthening surveillance, lab capacity, clinical management, vector control, risk communication, and community engagement during the outbreak. Public health experts are calling for dengue to be made a priority, with a focus on prevention measures and early detection to ensure access to adequate health services.

The impact of the dengue outbreak in Bangladesh highlights a larger global issue. As the planet continues to heat up due to the burning of fossil fuels, outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever are expected to increase in new regions of the world.

According to WHO, the global number of dengue cases has already increased eight-fold in the past two decades. As the climate crisis worsens, these diseases will likely spread further and have a greater impact on human health.

This year, dengue has severely affected South America, with Peru experiencing its worst outbreak on record. In Florida, several counties have been put on alert due to cases of dengue. Other countries in Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia, have also seen a spike in cases. Outbreaks have also been reported in sub-Saharan African countries like Chad.

WHO’s alert and response director Abdi Mahamud warns that these outbreaks are a “canary in the coalmine of the climate crisis,” and more countries are experiencing the heavy burden of these diseases.

The current dengue outbreak in Bangladesh serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for global action to address the climate crisis and its impact on public health.

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