World Health Organization and Singapore hold fourth Asia-Pacific dengue workshop

Collaboration needed in fight against dengue as nearly half of the world’s population is at risk

News release

Over 40% of all people globally are now at risk for dengue, which has become the fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world . Collaboration to build regional capacity to avert or lessen the impact of dengue outbreaks is hence key, and was discussed at the Fourth Asia-Pacific Dengue Workshop held from 26 August to 4 September 2014 in Singapore. Through such cross-border collaboration and sharing of dengue information, timely sensing of the dengue situation can improve preparedness within each country in the event of an outbreak.

Rising Incidence of Dengue

Home to a quarter of the world’s people, the World Health Organization (WHO) Region for the Western Pacific bears a heavy socio-economic burden due to dengue. In 2013, Member States of the Western Pacific Region reported 428,635 cases and 964 deaths from the disease.

Not only is the number of cases increasing as the disease spreads to new areas, but frequent explosive outbreaks are occurring. Last year, an outbreak in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic left 44,171 sick and 95 dead. Malaysia recorded 43,346 cases and 92 deaths, whilst the Philippines recorded over 204, 906 cases and 660 deaths. Singapore also experienced an unprecedented epidemic in 2013, with 22,170 cases and eight deaths. The epidemic has continued into 2014, with more than 13,000 cases to-date.

The incidence of dengue has been increasing dramatically in the last few decades, with an estimated 50–100 million dengue infections occurring worldwide each year. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries.

There is currently no available vaccine or effective medication against dengue. Treatment is supportive. Preventing mosquitoes from breeding and propagating, and protecting people from Aedes mosquito vectors are our best defence against the disease. Early detection of suspected cases, access to proper medical care and disease management, especially during outbreaks, can help in reducing the number of fatal cases.

Collaboration in the Fight Against Dengue

In combatting the disease, WHO supports countries through its collaborating network of centres and laboratories, and provides technical and financial support and guidance for the effective management of dengue.

In partnership with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Singapore National Environment Agency (NEA), WHO has also co-organised the Fourth Asia-Pacific Dengue Workshop (see Annex A for more details), with the aim of building regional capacity to avert or lessen the impact of dengue outbreaks. In this fourth workshop, we welcome 70 participants from 22 countries, and 17 international and local speakers.

The multi-disciplinary workshop aims to impart knowledge and skills on strengthening laboratory capacity, surveillance, clinical management and vector control . It supports the Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control (2012–2020) and the Dengue Strategic Plan for the Asia-Pacific Region (2008–2015) , endorsed by WHO Member States.

The workshop also supports the goals of the Asia-Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases (APSED 2005 and 2010), which are to strengthen national capacity to prevent, detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases. Synergy, improved efficiency and sustainability can be achieved by integrating dengue prevention and control into an existing broad based system. In alignment with APSED, the international workshop also promotes intersectoral coordination, regional cooperation and cross-border information sharing.

NEA’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Mr Khoo Seow Poh said, “Information sharing benefits everyone in the fight against dengue. The UNITEDengue initiative, an outcome of previous runs of this workshop, has successfully enabled greater cross-border sharing of dengue surveillance data and information. It allows better understanding and more timely appreciation of the dengue situation in the region. This network, launched at the same workshop two years ago, has expanded to ten countries. The network has also received the support and concurrence of the ASEAN Health Sector as the platform for sharing of dengue data in the region.”

“Dealing with a deadly disease such as dengue requires strong and consistent collaboration from everyone,” said WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo. “Dengue hinders progress, which prevents our people from enjoying quality life. It is therefore imperative that we pool our considerable resources together to rid our region of dengue. I urge governments, communities, stakeholders and donor agencies to strengthen efforts and programmes for the routine control of vector-borne diseases, and to ensure that systems are in place to detect, prepare for and respond to dengue outbreaks.”

For media queries, please contact:

Ruel E. Serrano (Mr)
Assistant, Public Information Office
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
DID: +632 528 9993
Email: serranor@wpro.who.int

Amalina Zulkefli (Miss)
Senior Executive, Corporate Communications
National Environment Agency
DID: 6731 9867
Mobile: 9797 6315
Email: Nur_Amalina_Zulkefli@nea.gov.sg

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