Dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka kills more than 300

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The number of cases as a result of an unprecedented dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka has risen to more than 100,000, flooding hospitals with patients and killing more than 300 of them, the health ministry says.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) plans to rapidly scale up emergency assistance to help contain the outbreak, which is now the country’s worst ever of the mosquito-borne viral disease.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health reported in an update that the number of dengue infections had reached 103,000 since the start of 2017. Of those infected, at least 301 patients have died, according to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.

“Dengue patients are streaming into overcrowded hospitals that are stretched beyond capacity and struggling to cope, particularly in the country’s hardest hit Western Province,” the IFRC said, adding that it has released more funds to scale up the emergency response over the next six months.

“Dengue is endemic here, but one reason for the dramatic rise in cases is that the virus currently spreading has evolved and people lack the immunity to fight off the new strain,” said Dr. Novil Wijesekara, the head of health at the Sri Lanka Red Cross.

Worsening the outbreak, recent monsoon rains and floods have left pools of stagnant water and rotting rain-soaked trash, creating ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes. Ongoing downpours and worsening sanitation conditions raise concerns that the disease will continue to spread.

Dengue fever is a flu-like illness that is spread through the bite of female mosquitoes. The disease manifests itself in two forms: a mild form which causes fever, chills, headache, and body aches for several days, and a more dangerous form that can cause internal bleeding, loss of blood pressure and death.

Dengue spreads more often during the rainy season when stagnant water allows mosquitoes to breed in large numbers. The rainy season in Sri Lanka’s west and southwest normally lasts from May to September.

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