Citing a US study, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that this year’s El Nino could lead to an epidemic of dengue fever cases in Southeast Asia.
The international research team, involving scientists from 18 institutions around the world and the ministries of health in each of the study countries, was led by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health associate professor Willem van Panhuis.
The team analyzed 18 years of monthly dengue surveillance reports that had been compiled from 3.5 million cases of the disease in 273 provinces in eight countries — including Taiwan.
The team found that the exceptionally high occurrence of dengue fever in 1997 and 1998 coincided with high temperatures brought about by a strong El Nino effect allowing mosquitoes to reproduce faster and spread dengue virus more efficiently.
This phenomenon occurs about once every five years, with one of the most significant episodes expected in the coming months, the study said.
CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that El Nino typically occurs every two to five years, and the Central Weather Bureau forecast the El Nino taking place from this summer through spring next year to be the most powerful in 18 years.
Affected by high temperatures brought by El Nino, the number of confirmed cases in some Southeast Asian countries is double or triple the number recorded last year, Chuang said.
“We hope to continue participating in research with these countries and establish a prediction model that will enable us to formulate prevention strategies,” he said.
As of Monday, a total of 20,972 indigenous dengue fever cases were reported nationwide, with 17,819 in Tainan and 2,806 in Kaohsiung. Seven deaths thought to be attributed to dengue fever were reported on Monday, and a total of 59 people are in intensive care units nationwide, CDC data showed.
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