Dengue is number one health concern in Southeast Asia, new survey finds

DENGUE, the fastest spreading viral disease in the world, is also the number one concern in Southeast Asia (SEA), according to the SEA Dengue Survey. Commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, the survey takes a comprehensive, present-day look at the prevention and management of Dengue, which outranked dangerous viruses such as Zika and HIV.

GSK is one of the founders of Allied Against Dengue (AAD), an open movement initiated by public and private institutions with a mission to reduce the impact of the disease on society. The pharmaceutical company presented the highlights of the survey at a scientific forum on ASEAN Dengue Day in Legazpi, Albay.

Two-thirds of respondents are anxious about widespread occurrence of the virus, and almost 40% have had an immediate family member who has suffered from it. While governments in the region have made extensive efforts to inform their citizens, dengue continues to be a huge burden to society.

“The impact of dengue has dramatically risen over the past few decades, putting about half of the world’s population at risk,” says Debjit Rudra, Area General Manager for Southeast Asia, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Southeast Asia alone carries the highest prevalence of dengue, affecting 2.9 million people annually, representing the biggest regional burden in the world.”

There is also rampant misunderstanding among the public, with more than 70% in the region and almost 80% in the Philippines mistakenly believing there is a cure, 4 or that antibiotics are needed to manage dengue symptoms. A low 28% of Filipino respondents are aware that paracetamol is the only recommended medication for dengue fever management as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). One of the trusted paracetamol brands in the Philippines is Calpol, which is proven safe and efficient in relieving pain and fever among children who are most vulnerable to the disease.

Beyond management, survey findings also uncovered that there is still a struggle to identify the symptoms of dengue in the Philippines. Only 19% know that dengue can be detected on the first day of infection and that majority would only visit the doctor when fever persists up to 3 days. Ironically, more than half of parents are confident that they would be able to diagnose their children with dengue, which may lead to misdiagnosis and place children in jeopardy.

“It is alarming that a large proportion of the population are misinformed about dengue management. This emphasizes the greater need for education,” Rudra says. “In light of these results, the AAD will continue to intensify its public advocacy program to mitigate the impact of dengue on communities in the region.”

On a positive note, the survey revealed that 95% of Filipinos are interested to learn more about dengue, and almost all parents feel schools should play a role in educating students about the disease.

Initiated by a coalition of 12 organizations, the AAD launched its pilot educational campaign in Indonesia in 2015, followed by Malaysia and the Philippines. More than 11,500 healthcare professionals and pharmacists joined efforts to empower and educate more than seven million patients on disease prevention and management across digital and media channels, and on-ground activations.

Active members of AAD, alongside GSK in the country, are the Department of Health (DOH) and Mercury Drug Corporation. Each organization provides their expertise in support of defeating dengue burden in the Philippines.

“Dengue is rife in Southeast Asia and, as a coalition partner; we can play an active role in society empowerment. The AAD is a perfect model on how we can join forces, and leverage on our collective strength and partnerships to drive awareness. The results of the survey will guide us on developing initiatives to educate people better,” Rudra says. (PR)