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Deadly dengue fever spreading fast, WHO warns

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that it had charted progress in the fight against tropical diseases but warned that dengue fever was spreading at an alarming rate.

"In 2012, dengue ranked as the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease, with an epidemic potential in the world, registering a 30-fold
increase in disease incidence over the past 50 years," the Geneva-based UN agency said in a report released Wednesday.
   
The increased transmission rate of the deadly mosquito-borne disease was due to climate change and a greater movement of people, the agency said.
 
An annual two million cases of dengue fever were reported over the last two years by 100 countries, with between 5,000 to 6,000 of them resulting in death.

But the WHO's Raman Velayudhan said the disease was likely underreported and estimated there were as many as 50 million cases a year with more than 20,000 deaths.

Dengue is spread by one of four viruses transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It causes high fever, headaches, itching and joint pains.

At an advanced stage it can lead to haemorrhaging and death.
 
But the agency also reported "unprecedented progress against 17 neglected tropical diseases", saying for example that rabies had been eliminated in several countries.

It added that guinea worm — a water-borne infection that causes agonizing pain and leaves sufferers unable to function for months — was on its way to total eradication.

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WHO

MERS deaths in South Korea a ‘wakeup call’

The MERS outbreak in South Korea is a "wakeup call", the Geneva-based World Health Organization said on Wednesday as it urged all countries to be more vigilant.

MERS deaths in South Korea a 'wakeup call'
WHO headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Yann Forget

The warning came as South Korea reported its 20th death from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus.
   
“The outbreak really should serve as a wakeup call for countries,” WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda said after an emergency committee meeting.
   
“All countries should always be prepared for the unanticipated possibility of outbreaks like this and other serious infectious diseases,” a WHO statement said.
   
However, the UN health body said that “conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have not been met”.
   
The virus appeared in South Korea on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.
   
Since then it has spread at an unusually rapid pace, sparking widespread alarm.
   
There is no vaccine for MERS which has a mortality rate of 35 percent, according to the WHO.

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