Officials Meet to Finalize Asia-Pacific Dengue Strategy

SINGAPORE ~ Asia-Pacific health officials began a meeting in Singapore on Monday to finalize a strategy against the worsening disease of dengue fever.

Representatives from more than 20 countries are attending the five-day meeting, which is co-hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Singapore’s National Environment Agency, officials said.

They aim “to basically refine and come up with a final draft plan of the dengue Asia-Pacific strategic plan,” said John Ehrenberg, regional adviser for the WHO’s Western Pacific region.

The plan will act as a “roadmap” to help countries ensure they have the key components of an integrated initiative to fight dengue, Ehrenberg said.

The strategy includes ways to strengthen surveillance systems, improve clinical management, and upgrade systems in response to outbreaks, said Chusak Prasittisuk, coordinator of communicable diseases control in WHO’s Southeast Asia region.

“We are optimistic that the strategic plan … will materialize and will be used by the member states in the Asia-Pacific region,” Chusak said.

After the Singapore meeting, regional health ministers will endorse the plan, Singapore’s environment agency said.

Asia bears the brunt of a worsening global rise in dengue fever cases, Singapore’s environment minister, Yaacob Ibrahim, said in a speech to the gathering.

The worldwide incidence of dengue had increased 30-fold during the past half-century, Yaacob said.

“Today, dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries, and some two to three billion people are at risk of contracting it. The situation is likely to worsen due to rapid urbanization and enhanced mobility and transportation,” he said.

Dengue is traditionally associated with poorer tropical countries but even highly urbanized Singapore is vulnerable. An outbreak in 2005 left 19 people dead in the city-state.

The disease leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes.

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