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Warmer rainy season triggers dengue spike across Indonesia

Jakarta Post - March 28, 2024

Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – Indonesia has seen a significant increase in cases of dengue fever and deaths from the illness as the El Nino weather phenomenon causes a warmer rainy season across the country.

The Health Ministry recorded some 35,500 dengue cases nationwide from the beginning of January to March 18, with 290 deaths.

The figure is more than double that of the same period last year, when the country saw some 15,800 dengue cases and 118 deaths.

West Java accounted for the greatest number of cases by province with more than 10,400, followed by East Java with 3,600, Southeast Sulawesi with 2,700, Central Kalimantan with 2,300, South Kalimantan with 2,000 and Lampung with 1,700.

The increase in dengue fever cases overwhelmed hospitals in Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi, forcing doctors to treat patients in hallways.

Kendari accounted for 1,500 of the province's 2,700 dengue cases and has recorded at least 10 deaths since January.

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Several hospitals in West Java and Central Java are also reportedly struggling to cope with spikes in dengue patients.

One hospital in Kudus, Central Java, resorted to putting patients in wheelchairs because it had run out of beds, and a hospital in Bandung had to purchase around a dozen more beds and employ more doctors to accommodate patients.

The Health Ministry has blamed the recent outbreak on a warmer rainy season caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

"Warm temperatures speed up mosquitoes' life cycles. That's why we've seen more cases recently," ministry spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi said on Wednesday.

Nadia said dengue cases would likely continue to increase and would peak in April, when the rainy season is predicted to end.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are commonly found in tropical climates such as Indonesia's. Dengue is common during the rainy season, when mosquito populations thrive, breeding in stagnant water.

Research has suggested that higher temperatures and favorable humidity could help mosquitoes grow faster and live longer as well as speed up virus reproduction in infected mosquitoes, allowing them to spread diseases more quickly.

The frequency of mosquito bites also tends to increase by three to five times when the temperature averages above 30 degrees Celsius.

The government's efforts to address the outbreak include the "3M" public awareness campaign, which stands for menguras, menutup, mendaur ulang (draining water sources, covering water sources and recycling), as well as other methods, such as planting mosquito-repelling plants or spraying mosquito-repellant chemicals.

The government has also been experimenting with new technologies to curb the disease, including vaccination and releasing lab-bred mosquitoes containing the Wolbachia bacteria.

When mosquitoes are injected with Wolbachia, the bacteria competes with viruses such as dengue, making it harder for the viruses to reproduce inside mosquitoes, thereby reducing the insects' ability to transmit dengue to humans.

However, Imran Pambudi, the Health Ministry's director for communicable disease control and prevention, said public resistance to new technology to fight dengue and a lack of adherence to the 3M campaign posed significant challenges to dengue prevention efforts in the country.

Source: https://asianews.network/warmer-rainy-season-triggers-dengue-spike-across-indonesia