Jamaica’s dengue fever outbreak shows the deadly effects of record heat | Georgiana Gordon-Strachan

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In the summer season of 2023, the world recorded the best temperature in 100,000 years. All continents had been affected and even the mild breeze usually felt within the tropics did little to chill the sweltering warmth skilled by small island growing states (Sids). Our newest Lancet Countdown report, monitoring the connections between well being and the local weather disaster, confirmed that Sids skilled 103 health-threatening warmth days annually between 2018 and 2022 – equating to nearly a 3rd of the yr being above the brink whereby heat-related deaths are more likely to improve.

Other than the direct risks of publicity to health-threatening warmth similar to warmth stress, heatstroke, and, in extreme circumstances, demise, elevated warmth improves the local weather suitability for the unfold of infectious ailments similar to dengue fever, malaria and vibrio by increasing their climatic boundaries, our most up-to-date knowledge exhibits. Our mathematical fashions of dengue fever present a rise within the frequency of outbreaks with a rise in warmth, and the proof means that the local weather disaster has exacerbated the frequency of those outbreaks.

Dengue fever is a climate-sensitive illness that’s unfold via the saliva of an contaminated feminine Aedes mosquito when it bites an uninfected particular person. Dengue fever presents with excessive fever, extreme headache, flu-like signs, intense joint and muscle ache, and different flu-like signs. It’s often a light illness that may be adequately handled with relaxation, hydration and acetaminophen/paracetamol.

Nonetheless, it will also be extreme, requiring hospitalisation and, in uncommon instances, inflicting demise. Its most extreme kind is dengue haemorrhagic fever. The virus has 4 strains: Denv-1, Denv-2, Denv-3, and Denv-4. These strains are distinct, and immunity to 1 doesn’t present safety from the others. Denv-2 is essentially the most extreme pressure. Publicity to 1 pressure after being contaminated with one other will increase the severity of the illness, and repeated an infection will increase the chance of buying dengue haemorrhagic fever.

Earlier than 2007, the frequency of dengue outbreaks in Jamaica was as soon as each 10 years; after 2007, the frequency elevated to 1 each three to 4 years. The final epidemic was in 2019. Whereas different danger elements similar to behaviour and setting are implicated within the unfold of dengue, the local weather disaster is believed to be a major contributor to the frequency of outbreaks, with the rise in temperature being the first motive.

The Jamaican summer season of 2023 offered the right situations for a rise in mosquito proliferation. First, there was a drought, which led to a rise within the storage of water, usually in containers best for mosquito breeding. The drought was adopted by a record-breaking sizzling and dry summer season that ended with rain. Added to the combo is hyperendemnicity, with all 4 dengue strains circulating.

In September 2023, Jamaica’s ministry of well being and wellness declared a dengue fever outbreak. The variety of instances reported by well being officers as of 6 November was 3,147 (suspected, presumed and examined), with 9 deaths, including stress on the island’s already burdened well being system.

The dominant pressure in circulation was Denv-2, and the hospitalisation charge was 72 folks every week. Kids aged between 5 and 14 had been essentially the most affected, with 360 instances per 100,000 folks. Kids had been disproportionately affected as a result of the final dengue outbreak with Denv-2 because the dominant pressure occurred in 2010; these kids had been born after 2010 and didn’t purchase immunity to Denv-2. The outbreak is ongoing.

Small island states usually really feel as if we’re in a relentless state of restoration from the impacts of the local weather disaster. Restoration from excessive climate occasions, similar to tropical cyclones; restoration from illness outbreaks exacerbated by local weather change; restoration from sea degree rise inflicting coastal erosion and salinisation of our water and land. Now we have repeatedly misplaced land, lives and livelihoods due to the local weather disaster, a phenomenon to which we collectively contribute lower than 1%.

We should always not lose sight of the progress made: the lethality of maximum climate occasions in Sids has fallen, and we have now recorded progressively fewer deaths. It is a results of meteorological early warning techniques, higher catastrophe preparedness and administration, in addition to immediate acceptable well being responses.

However we danger exceeding the ability of those adaptation efforts, because the world strikes within the unsuitable course: increasing oil and fuel actions, forgoing local weather financing commitments, and leaving international locations similar to Sids behind within the uptake of fresh, renewable vitality.

In October, after I visited my 14-year-old niece, who was in hospital with dengue, I mirrored on the kids of small island growing states whose lives will proceed to be affected by the local weather disaster. Pressing motion should be taken on the world degree to cut back fossil gasoline manufacturing and consumption to guard the well being of all folks, particularly these dwelling in Sids, who bear the brunt of the local weather disaster.

Dr Georgiana Gordon-Strachan is the chief director of the Lancet Countdown Regional Centre for Small Island Creating States, and director of the Tropical Metabolism Analysis Unit on the Caribbean Institute for Well being Analysis, College of the West Indies in Jamaica

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