Taiwan suffers deadliest dengue outbreak

A residential area in Tainan being fumigated on Tuesday.
A residential area in Tainan being fumigated on Tuesday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

TAIPEI • Taiwan is facing its deadliest outbreak of dengue fever with a record high of 42 deaths - double the number that died last year, the authorities warned.

Last year saw 15,732 cases - by far the highest in nearly three decades - with this year shaping up to overtake it.

The total number of cases for this year has already hit 15,282, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, with the majority in southern Tainan City.

Unusually hot weather has caused the increase, it said.

High temperatures and humidity encourage breeding of mosquitoes, which is why countries with tropical climates - including Taiwan - tend to be plagued by dengue fever every year.

"This year saw temperatures in Tainan and (the southern region of) Kaohsiung at their highest in 30 years," Mr Chuang Jen-hsiang, CDC's deputy director said.

"It's likely at its peak right now. The epidemic across South-east Asian countries is generally more serious this year," he added.

Another 36 deaths are being examined for their connection to dengue fever.

Dengue fever - which causes high fever, headaches, itching and joint pains - affects two million people across the globe annually, with the number of cases up 30 times in the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organisation.

The virus, for which there is no vaccine, can lead to vomiting, bleeding and breathing difficulty in more severe cases.

Cases in Thailand have nearly tripled this year, while Malaysia also saw a surge in infections, with 219 deaths as of Sept 20, according to the CDC.

Local media have reported the epidemic hitting tourism in Tainan, a city with a population of 1.88 million, which draws visitors with its historic architecture and reputation as Taiwan's best food destination.

Businesses have seen a 50 per cent drop in visitors since the outbreak, United Daily News reported earlier this month.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Taiwan suffers deadliest dengue outbreak'. Subscribe