At 390 million cases per year, dengue is the world’s fastest-growing disease. This has rocketed from only 15,000 cases in 1960. Countries in Asia are most affected by the disease and mark their community’s action on dengue every year on 15th June. However, there is still no global moment to help raise awareness internationally.
That’s why Malaria Consortium, together with ISNTD and Break Dengue among others, is calling for the disease to be recognised for the significant global health threat that it is, and marked with a World Dengue Day.
You might ask whether creating a day of global recognition really makes a difference? Consider tuberculosis and malaria; their world days were officially recognised in 1995 and 2007 respectively. The focus these days offered for their respective issues helped create new momentum for action against the diseases, with governments and NGOs using the days to announce new initiatives and persuade others to do the same. Since 2000, the mortality rate for tuberculosis has fallen by 47%, while since 2007 the mortality rate for malaria has fallen by 49%. Global days create a level of awareness that can have a real impact.
There are many reasons why the world should pay a lot more attention to dengue. Here are just a few of them:
1. About 50 percent of the world’s population is at risk from dengue
The sharp increase in global incidence in recent decades means around 3.9 billion people around the world are at risk from dengue. This equates to someone being admitted to hospital every minute and a dengue-related death every 20 minutes. By 2080, the risk is predicted to be even higher.
2. The economic cost of dengue is great
The top line figures show that economies in Southeast Asia could lose $2.36 billion every year due to dengue. For lower income families, who also tend to be at the most risk, this may be equivalent to two or even three times their monthly income due to the loss of productivity either because they are sick or they need to care for a family member. When it comes to healthcare costs, on average, 45 percent is borne by the patient or family.
3. There are practical ways to reduce the dengue risk
There are simple but effective ways for communities to reduce the dengue risk, including using insecticide-treated materials in homes, and covering water containers, or burying or emptying discarded items that might collect water to prevent mosquitoes from creating egg-laying habitats. In addition, governments need to carry out monitoring and surveillance activities to determine the effectiveness of control interventions on the vectors.
4. WHO’s new dengue strategy
The global efforts to fight back against dengue in recent years have been guided by a World Health Organization (WHO) strategy that was introduced in 2012. However, this strategy is being updated at the end of 2020. This makes it a perfect time to bring the world together around the issue.
You can join the campaign for a World Dengue Day by supporting our friends at the ISNTD and Break Dengue, who are petitioning the UN General Assembly to recognise the day officially. You can sign the petition here.
Ashley Giles is Senior Communications Officer at Malaria Consortium.