Dengue fever, a viral neglected tropical disease (NTD) that is spread by the bite of an infected female mosquito, causes roughly 12,000 deaths every year – which is more than the total number of people who died in the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Cases of dengue have risen from 15,000 in the 1960s to an estimated 390 million last year, and the World Health Organization now considers dengue to be the most important mosquito-borne viral disease that needs to be tackle in the world today. Despite this, a new report from Malaria Consortium argues that dengue has not been a sufficiently high priority, and is falling between the cracks of the global health agenda.
The report, Dengue: falling between the cracks , calls for a shift from responding on an ad-hoc basis to isolated outbreaks of dengue, towards long-term, integrated programming which would combine prevention, management and treatment, as well as effective surveillance. It is essential that the community is engaged and mobilised effectively, because when communities are armed with relevant knowledge and skills concerning preventive behaviours and environmental sanitation, they can minimise their own vulnerability to dengue.
However, if the rapid spread of the disease is to be halted, funding for the full range of interventions must also be increased. Together these offer the way forward for controlling and then reversing the spread of dengue.
“We hope that our latest report will help to stimulate debate around the key issues involved in the fight against dengue, and raise awareness of the huge impact it is having around the world,” says Dr James Tibenderana, Malaria Consortium’s Global Technical Director. “The UK is already a world leader in the fight against infectious diseases, including a range of NTDs, but even as one of those diseases classified as ‘neglected’, dengue receives little funding or attention.”
The report’s recommendations and the challenges that endemic countries face in stopping the rise of dengue will be discussed at a high level roundtable event later this month. The roundtable will be hosted by Imran Hussain MP in partnership with Malaria Consortium and a full write up of the discussion will be available on Politics Home and in The House magazine in December.