An estimated 622 people have died from dengue fever in the Philippines this year, prompting the government to declare a public health emergency on Tuesday, according to the country’s Department of Health.
At least 146,062 cases of the virus have been recorded since January, which is a 98% jump compared to the same period in 2018. Dengue fever is a deadly virus transmitted by mosquitoes that causes extreme flu-like symptoms and pain throughout the body.
By declaring a public health emergency, the Department of Health will be able to better mobilize resources and contain the spread of the virus.
“It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these areas to identify where a localized response is needed, and to enable the local government units to use their Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation,” Francisco T. Duque III, the Philippines’ health secretary, said in a statement.
The government will embark on an effort to destroy mosquito breeding sites as a way to eliminate the risk of dengue.
Mosquito larvae grow in small cavities that collect water including potholes, depressions in soil, buckets, grooves in wood, and other similar areas. Teams can drain and fill these cavities to minimize spawning grounds. Better water management techniques can also be adopted by farmers and government officials to prevent stray bodies of water from forming.
The Philippines government has no plans to roll out the dengue vaccine, which has been banned in the country since 2018 because of concerns raised by its manufacture about adverse health effects, Al Jazeera reports. It’s also unclear whether the country will begin spraying pesticides to kill mosquito populations.
Either way, the Philippines is no longer waiting to take action. Other countries in the region have seen an uptick in mosquito-borne diseases this year. Bangladesh, for example, is struggling with its worst-ever dengue epidemic.
Globally, millions of people die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, and many more suffer long-term health consequences. Malaria is the most common mosquito disease, killing an estimated 2.7 million people annually.
As climate change intensifies around the world, mosquito seasons are extending and the insects are flying to new territories due to warmer temperatures, exposing millions of new people to the deadly diseases each year.
By 2050, it’s estimated that half of the global population could be at risk of being infected by a deadly disease.