Climate risks: Dengue fever outbreak climbs to record levels

Bangladesh is having to come to terms with a record deadly outbreak of dengue fever, as climate change raises temperatures which are conducive to the spread of the deadly disease.

At least 293 people have died so far in 2023 and nearly 61,500 infected, according to official figures, making this the deadliest year since the first recorded epidemic in 2000.

There is no vaccine or drug that specifically treats dengue, which is common in South Asia during the June-to-September monsoon season, when the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the deadly virus thrives in stagnant water.

Experts said they expect to get more cases through August and September. This year’s deaths already top the previous record of 281 from last year, with the number of people infected just behind the 62,423 cases of 2022.

Hospitals, especially in capital Dhaka, are struggling to find space for the large number of patients suffering high fever, joint pain and vomiting, health officials said.

The government has launched initiatives to limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, from awareness campaigns to efforts to kill mosquito larvae following a spell of rains, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said.

Dr Yasir Arafat, Save the Children’s senior health and nutrition advisor for Asia, said: “Across Asia, extreme weather events are throwing the lives of children into disarray and this alarming surge in severe dengue outbreaks is just another issue impacting their physical and mental health.”