By Pratch Rujivanarom
DENGUE MISSION Buzz, a regional campaign against dengue fever, was launched on Sunday in response to the rising number of dengue cases in Southeast Asia and for the Asean Dengue Fever Day, which is marked on June 15 yearly.
The campaign launch, held in Laos first on Sunday and in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam yesterday, was presided over by Laos’ Vice Public Health Minister Boonkong Sihawong. The ceremony included a 20-kilometre bicycle rally in Vientiane to help publicise the campaign and raise awareness.
“Asean saw many severe dengue cases in 2013,” Wichai Satimai from Thailand’s Disease Control Department said at the ceremony.
Eric Mansion, managing director of Sanofi Pasteur (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar), explained that the campaign’s key aim was to prevent outbreaks by teaching people how to protect themselves and to rid the region of mosquitoes carrying the disease.
He said campaign teams would focus first on areas most at risk. In Thailand, the at-risk areas are Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom and Rayong provinces. A global leader in vaccines, Sanofi Pasteur is now researching vaccines for dengue.
Wichai said Thailand recognised the need to work with other states in the battle against dengue.
“Studies in 2013 revealed that dengue infections began in Malaysia before moving to the south of Thailand and spreading across the country and beyond. This is why we have to work closely with others,” he said.
Wichai said the Public Health Ministry was working with its counterparts in nine Asean countries on disease control, as easy travel connections between the nations might spread the infections further.
According to data compiled by Sanofi Pasteur, Asia has had the highest incidence of dengue cases, accounting for 75 per cent of total infections. Statistics also show that 1.8 billion people in Asia of the total 2.5 billion people most at risk were prone to the disease.
In Thailand, 17,000 people have already come down with dengue infections this year and four more months remain in the peak infection period, which is from May to September. In 2013, Thailand had some 150,454 dengue cases and 133 fatalities.
Dr Ferdinal M Fernando, assistant director and chief of the Health and Communicable Diseases Divi-sion of the Asean Socio-Cultural Community Department, said den-gue was a great threat due to higher mortality. He said this was aggravated by different factors such as changes in environment and climate, social behaviour, urbanisation and population density, to name a few.
“Asean Dengue Day provides an ideal platform for advocating more effective strategies to manage dengue, as well as discuss current unmet needs. Initiatives like the Dengue Mission Buzz further strengthens public-private partnership opportunities in raising awareness of the dengue disease in our communities,” Dr Fernando said.