How can social distancing, measure to curb COVID-19 lead to surge in dengue cases?  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- COVID-19 outbreak led to all the attention and resources getting diverted towards the disease
- Dengue is a highly infectious disease spread by the bite of a specific mosquito
- In Thailand, researchers have found that dengue transmission increased due to COVID-19
New Delhi: With the outbreak of COVID-19 infection, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, all healthcare resources of the world and all the attention shifted to the pandemic, leaving behind various other diseases that cause severe damage to life and health every year.
One such preventable disease, dengue, has seen a rise in the global incidence of the disease. Researchers have now found that it is not just reallocation of resources that has led to a rise in cases of dengue, but measures such as social distancing adopted to curb COVID-19 spread may have also had an impact.
Social distancing led to a significant rise in dengue infections in Thailand: Research
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge impact on the mobility of humans, given the stay at home restrictions imposed in various parts fo the world, to curb the spread of COVID-19. This may have impacted the transmission of various other infectious diseases, such as dengue.
According to a research published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, social distancing has reportedly led to a significant rise in dengue infections in Thailand. However, a similar change has not been reflected in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, or Singapore.
How social distancing affected dengue transmission – Understanding the link
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, and healthcare systems around the world were not equipped to take the load of the highly contagious disease, various governments and agencies ordered nation-wide lockdowns around countries, to reduce the rate at which the infection spread. This led to workplaces closing, bans on mass gatherings, and complete shutdowns. This gave researchers an opportunity to look at dengue transmissions occurring other than in workplaces.
Researcher Jue Tao Lim of the National University of Singapore and his colleagues analyzed dengue case counts for Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. This was done using the national surveillance data available through mid-2020. Information on climate, COVID-19 interventions and overall population census data was also taken into account.
Researchers found social distancing is expected to lead to 4.32 additional cases per month, per 100,000 individuals. Researchers suggest that this rise could be attributed to increased exposure in residences, as compared to workplaces.
“Across country disparities in social distancing policy effects on reported dengue cases are reasoned to be driven by differences in workplace-residence structure, with an increase in transmission risk of arboviruses from social distancing primarily through heightened exposure to vectors in elevated time spent at residences,” the researchers say. “(This demonstrates) the need to understand the effects of location on dengue transmission risk under novel population mixing conditions such as those under social distancing policies.”
The dengue virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. It can cause symptoms such as severe fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and nausea and vomiting. An estimated 105 million dengue infections occur every year, with the majority of cases concentrated in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.