Public health authorities concerned as dengue cases soar
Dengue fever is on a steady upward march, leading authorities to declare the mosquito-borne disease a dangerous infectious disease rather than just a monitored one.
According to Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the Public Health Ministry’s Disease Control Department, the number of dengue fever patients has risen to more than 5,000 cases per week nationwide. The total number of patients has reached almost 40,000, with over 40 reported deaths. This is close to the numbers observed during the last outbreak in 2019, which saw more than 70,000 cases and over 70 deaths throughout the year. If the number of cases continues to increase steadily, it may be necessary to put strict measures in place to control the disease quickly and efficiently.
Public health teams from 30 districts of 18 provinces, all of which have seen a continuous increase in the number of dengue fever patients, met online with representatives of the Department of Local Administration on July 21, who emphasised the need for immediate control and prevention measures within the next four weeks.
Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nan, Phayao, Tak, Phetchaburi, Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat, Ubon Ratchathani, Krabi, Phuket, Songkhla, Satun, Narathiwat, and Bangkok are the most affected, with all seeing dengue cases for more than 8 consecutive weeks. In addition, the number of cases in the last four weeks has exceeded the average of the previous 5 years, indicating a potential epidemic.
Dr. Tares also provided urgent guidelines for teams of experts from the Bureau of Vector-borne Diseases, the Bureau of Epidemiology, and the 38 provincial centres for vector-borne disease control across the country. They were tasked with providing support and resources to reduce the number of cases to below the 5-year average.
Dr. Sophon Iamsirithavorn, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, noted that the Communicable Diseases Act of 2015 declared dengue fever as a monitored infectious disease. However, if the number of cases remained high and continuous, and stronger control measures are required, the department has the authority, as specified in Section 9 of the Act, to announce areas where dengue fever is considered an epidemic. This will empower disease control officers to take actions under Section 34 of the Act to control and prevent the disease, similar to measures taken for dangerous infectious diseases such as Covid-19 during the first two years of the pandemic.