- Title: PHILIPPINES: Urban sprawl and bad sanitation spread dengue fever
- Date: 4th September 2009
- Summary: CHILDREN ON FLOOR OF A SHANTY HOME CHILD WALKING OUTSIDE HOUSE PAST TUBS OF WATER STAGNANT WATER INSIDE OLD TIRE STAGNANT WATER IN EXPOSED SEWER CHILD PLAYING BESIDE EXPOSED SEWER
- Embargoed: 21st September 2009 06:38
- Location: Philippines
- Country: Philippines
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVABVS1XDG51E4G8LORQPLI1ZDPY
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: San Lazaro Hospital in Manila counts almost 100 dengue fever patients each day, many of whom are children living in crowded communities with poor sanitation.
The rapid growth of densely populated cities has helped spread and increase the transmission of dengue around the world, health experts said on Wednesday (September 2), warning up to three billion people were already at risk.
Seven-month old Diane Chavez was the second in her family to catch the virus, following her 11-year-old sister.
"I'm worried because there's a chance all the people in our small rented space have gotten infected. I'm worried that my other child will also get it. Her older brother who's two years old, he might get the virus too," said Maria Chavez, Diane's mother.
San Lazaro, a hospital specialising in infectious diseases, has thousands of dengue patients a year. In 2007 when a virulent strain entered the Philippines, they treated more than 55,000 cases.
Rapid urbanisation, an increase in air travel and lack of mosquito control are the main drivers of the disease, said Duane Gubler, director of the Asia Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Hawaii.
Scientists and health experts held a conference in Manila since Monday (August 31) to exchange practices and strategies to combat the disease that infects between 50-100 million people every year, causing tens of thousands of deaths, mainly among children.
"The cities can't keep up with the population growth. The result is a breakdown in a lot of basic services - inadequate water, inadequate sewage, inadequate waste management, inadequate housing. The result is very crowded living conditions for a large number of people; and with the inadequate basic services, the mosquito populations increased," Gubler said.
Nearly half the population across the globe is living in cities, Gubler said, adding most urban areas in the region now have a population of over five million.
Mosquitoes breed in poorly sanitised slums in urban capitals like Manila, a city of 12 million, and thousands of dengue victims come from such slums.
"We've got Manila, we've got Bangkok, we've got Jakarta, we've got all of these cities which are mega-cities so it's very difficult to control the mosquitoes without the help of the people who live in the houses where most of the mosquitoes breed, and so the recommendation to control has to be a partnership between government health agencies and the people," Gubler said.
Air travel has also caused dengue strains to spread exponentially. In the 1950s, when the first dengue outbreak was reported in Manila, only 10 countries in Southeast and South Asia had dengue problems but the disease has now spread to about 100 states in the Pacific islands, Latin America and Africa due to a rise in air travel.
Gubler said annual traveller traffic only reached around 50 million in the 1950s, but the figure has risen to about 2 billion in the last six decades, helping spread the disease.
Scientists also disputed reports that climate change could become a factor in the spread of the disease, saying dengue fever had reached epidemic proportions in some countries in Asia long before climate change became an issue. Transmission also increases in the rainy season, when temperatures are cooler.
Several pharmaceutical and biotech companies are rushing to develop and make available an anti-dengue drug and a vaccine in the next five to seven years.
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