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India is among top 20 countries with most reported dengue cases and deaths in the year 2023 -- which recorded more than in the last five years annually, according to a report released on Sunday.
The report, by aid agency Save the Children, showed that between January and November 2023, a whopping 5 million cases of dengue fever were recorded across 20 of the worst-impacted countries -- marking a 30 per cent increase in cases compared to 2022 and 18 per cent more than the figures in 2019.
It also found that at least 5,500 people were killed by dengue across the 20 countries, including India, up 32 per cent from 2022 and up 11 per cent compared to 2019.
The actual number of deaths and cases is likely to be far higher as many cases are not reported, the report said. Bangladesh, which had the highest known global death toll, faced its worst dengue fever outbreak on record in 2023, with over 300,000 people infected since January, a massive jump from the 62,000 people known to have the illness in 2022.
The outbreak resulted in 1,598 deaths -- including over 160 children, mostly aged under 10 -- with the death toll in 2023 more than five times that of 2022.
"Across Asia, extreme weather events have contributed to making 2023 a devastating year for dengue deaths, throwing the lives of children into disarray. Children are impacted not only as the victims of dengue but by disruption to their education, increased economic and emotional pressure on their families, and when their caregivers contract and die from disease," said Yasir Arafat, Save the Children's Senior Health and Nutrition Advisor for Asia, in a statement.
"We need local plans to fight dengue -- at village and city level -- and with the involvement of communities. Controlling mosquitos, diagnosing the disease and treatment needs to be a government-wide effort and not just the work of health departments. Funding needs to better anticipate extreme weather and climate shocks to manage the risk and not just the crisis," he added.
Dengue fever is a viral infection contracted via mosquito bites and can cause flu-like symptoms, including high fevers, pain behind the eyes, rash, severe headaches and body aches.
In the most serious cases it can progress to dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal.
The report blamed this year's El Nino event coupled with the climate crisis for the spike in the dengue fever outbreak. In July, the World Health Organisation reported that dengue has surged eight-fold in just over two decades from around half a million cases in 2000 to more than 4.2 million in 2022.
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