We Take a Stand

Today is ASEAN Dengue Day

3 min read


By Luchie Aclan Arguelles Published: June 15, 2020

The world is too focused on the COVID-19 pandemic that it has overlooked a more dangerous slayer – dengue.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that could prove more lethal than the coronavirus disease, specifically prevalent among the youth.

Like COVID-19, dengue is also viral disease that is acquired through the bites of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Also similar to COVID-19, this mosquito-borne disease is a global health concern.


Priority Health Focus

In 2010, health ministers attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Singapore came to an agreement to the observe ASEAN Dengue Day every 15th day of June of each year.

In its 2015 Health Development Agenda, ASEAN member states consolidated efforts not only to fight the viral disease but more so to make dengue a priority communicable disease. This was issued through the ASEAN Health Cluster 2 on Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats.

This advocacy was to remind people in the region on the dangers of dengue as a shared responsibility. It is also about encouraging everyone to get involved in the prevention and control of dengue.

The ASEAN community has moved forward to recognize the promising innovative approaches and interventions against dengue.

The region records the highest number of dengue infections in the Asia and Pacific that could, like COVID-19, had seriously been affected by the significant socio-economic impacts of the disease.

The World Health Organization, as outlined in the Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control 2012-2020, requires strong and long-term commitments of governments. The economies are expected to set up measures, strategies and approaches to address the disease.

For 2019, the ASEAN theme for this advocacy was “End Dengue: Starts With Me”.

There was none reported for this year, though, possibly due to the focus on the coronavirus pandemic.


Dengue and COVID-19

It is, indeed, alarming that there are clinical and laboratory features of dengue and the COVID-19 that could be identical and difficult to distinguish.

What’s complicating were findings that COVID-19 patients can produce false-positive results from rapid serological testing for dengue.

A recent study published in The Lancet warned doctors of these phenomenal discoveries to avert wrong diagnosis.

Lead by Dr. Gabriel Yan of the Department of Medicine of the National University of Singapore, a study was made on two patients – a male and a female, both 57 years old – who were initially misdiagnosed as having dengue fever due to serological tests.

They both exhibited symptoms and found positive of the dengue rapid test.After being treated for dengue and discharged from hospitals, they were readmitted back as conditions worsened. Further tests indicated they were both suffering from the COVID-19.


Where Residents Crowd

Dengue is particularly acute in areas were a huge chunk of the populace live in crowded environments. Mosquitoes have adapted to breeding in human dwellings where there are uncovered stagnant water.

Dengue causes flu-like symptoms, a sudden rise in temperature, pain behind the eyes, muscles, joints and bones, severe headaches, and skin rashes. It usually takes four to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito before symptoms manifest.

The disease can progress to life-threatening severe case, characterized by severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, bruising, uncontrolled bleeding, and high fever that can last from two to seven days.

Complications could lead to overall system failures, shock, and eventual death.


Decrease in Cases

In the first quarter of 2020, through April 4, there was a dramatic decrease in dengue fever cases that caused 112 deaths among 45,771 victims.

In 2019 for the same period, there were 71,324 reported cases or a 36 percent decrease.

The decline could probably be attributed to the cautiousness and cleanliness practiced to prevent contraction of COVID-19.

Also in 2019, the Department of Health and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee declared a national dengue epidemic.

There were more than 420,453 dengue cases and 1,565 deaths were reported or almost double than the figures reported for 2018. This was the highest in ASEAN.

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