Taiwan Faces Worst Dengue Outbreak In A Decade

India, China and Taiwan are all currently battling an ongoing dengue outbreak, with tens of thousands of cases.

AsianScientist (Sep. 22, 2015) – Taiwan is facing one of its worst dengue outbreaks in a decade this summer. At of the time of this report, there have been more than 10,000 cases and 30 deaths reported in Taiwan according to Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), with more than 98 percent of the cases coming from Tainan.

Dengue outbreaks are not unknown in Taiwan. Just last year, after an underground gas pipe explosion in Kaohsiung and a spate of heavy rain, there was an outbreak of dengue fever. According to a letter published in Emerging Microbes and Infection, the hot, humid summer combined with rain water gathered at the site of the pipe damage contributed to the dengue spike.

Taiwan has faced periodic outbreaks of dengue, particularly in the southern parts of the island. However, this year’s outbreak, which started in May and has continued to increase steadily as the summer progressed, is particularly serious.

Dengue fever is spread through Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. To date, there is no treatment or vaccination for dengue fever (although there have been new developments in our understanding of the mechanism to which dengue virus affects the immune system). Symptoms of the disease include fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion and severe joint and muscle pains. In severe cases, like dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, there might even be widespread internal bleeding and may be fatal.

The public has been urged by the Taiwanese CDC to remove potential mosquito breeding sites and take precautions against mosquito bites. The Ministry of Health and Welfare in Taiwan has chosen four hospitals, including the Ministry of Health and Welfare Tainan Hospital, Tainan Municipal Hospital, Tainan Municipal An-Nan Hospital, and Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital Tainan Branch, as key rapid response centers for dengue treatment. Each hospital will designate a special ward for the isolation and treatment of dengue patients, according to a report from Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control.

Furthermore, the Ministry also decided that dengue diagnosis through NS1 antigen detection would be covered by the National Health Insurance for vulnerable populations in Taiwan based on a report from Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control. In particular, they are making this diagnostic test free for those aged above 60 years old who showing clinical symptoms of dengue fever and reside in Tainan, Kaohsiung or Pingtung.

The dengue outbreak is not only limited to Taiwan. A similar outbreak is also afflicting the Guangdong province in China. Since the start of the year, there have been more than 6,000 cases, ten times more than the numbers reported from last year. This sudden outbreak has been attributed to imported cases and persistent rainfall in the region.

Over in India, the number of dengue cases has gone up to more than 20,000, the highest recorded in five years, according to reports. In New Delhi alone, some 1,200 cases have been reported.

Indian authorities have been heavily criticized for their perceived inaction over the current outbreak, particular following the suicide of the parents of a young boy who died while seeking treatment at numerous hospitals. In response, officials have ordered for more hospital beds to accommodate dengue patients.


Source: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: coniferconifer/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Ying Ying completed her PhD in neurobiology at the University of Basel, where she studied the role of bone morphogenetic protein in structural plasticity of neurons.

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