| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Fierce heat of El Nino may be carrying risk of resurgent deadly viruses

The resurgence of the climatic phenomenon “El Nino” is raising concerns worldwide about extreme weather, agricultural disturbances, and economic crises. Additionally, experts have cautioned that the intense heat associated with El Nino may lead to a resurgence of tropical diseases.
In a press conference, the World Health Organisation (WHO) sounded the alarm as Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the weather phenomenon is likely to increase the spread of dengue and other arboviruses like chikungunya and Zika.

Ghebreyesus said that the WHO has been making preparations to tackle the increase in the spread of viral diseases like Zika, chikungunya and dengue, as there is a “very high probability” of transmission of such diseases.

“WHO is preparing for the very high probability that 2023 and 2024 will be marked by an El Nino event, which could increase transmission of dengue and other so-called arboviruses such as Zika and chikungunya. The effects of climate change are also fuelling mosquito breeding and the spread of these diseases,” he stated.

Speaking about how the organisation is going to tackle the threat, Ghebreyesus said, “To respond to this threat, WHO last year established a global arbovirus initiative, which aims to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks of these diseases. Many of the same capacities that countries established for COVID-19 can also be leveraged for dengue and other diseases. And many of the actions that can prevent dengue are the same actions that can help prevent so many other diseases – including climate action.”
Mosquitoes, which transmit such viruses tend to multiply in the warmer weather which the El Nino effect is set to bring in various parts of the world.
There has already been an increase in tropical diseases in regions from South America to Asia. A state of emergency has been declared in Peru due to its worst recorded dengue outbreak, as almost 150,000 suspected cases have been reported so far. The WHO stated that the increasing infections are placing a “heavy burden” on the health system of the country.

Meanwhile, in the last three years, the highest number of dengue cases have been reported in Thailand with 19,503 cases reported by local health authorities in 2023.

According to WHO, cases have also been on the rise in Cambodia and Malaysia while authorities in Singapore warned earlier about the potential for an increase in cases between June and October.

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