It is rainy season in Southeast Asia, and the region is facing its annual battle with dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases. The World Health Organization says such diseases are a leading cause of hospitalization in several Asian nations including Thailand and Philippines.
In Hong Kong, as in other Southeast Asian cities, summer heat and monsoon rains create a sharp spike in the risk of dengue fever also known simply as dengue.
In its milder forms, the disease causes acute flu-like symptoms, including high temperatures, severe headaches, rash and muscle pain. The more severe form, known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, can be fatal, particularly in children. Both forms of the disease can be successfully treated.
Dengue is caused by any of four related viruses, meaning a person can theoretically be infected four separate times in a lifetime. Repeated infections may increase the chance of contracting the fatal form of the disease.
The World Health Organization or WHO says the number of countries that have experience dengue academics has grown dramatically in the last three decades from just 9 in 1970 to more than 100 at present. About 2.5 billion people in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region, Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean are at risk of infection.
Hong Kong health officials say last year was the first year a dengue outbreak was traced to local sources. Twenty locally-transmitted cases were detected in all, 17 of which were traced to a single construction site. Health officials however say it is still too early to conclude that the disease has become endemic to the territory.
Dr. Ho Yuk-yin, a consultant for Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, says, up to now, most dengue fever has reached Hong Kong along with people who travel here. "For the last 10 years, or so, all the other cases are imported from our neighboring countries, particularly from Southeast Asian countries," he said.
Hong Kong authorities say none of the cases of dengue fever reported in Hong Kong so far this year can be traced to a local source. Instead, they have been imported from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
Dengue is transmitted from human to human by female mosquitoes, which draw in the virus that causes the disease while feeding on the blood of one person, and then passing the virus on when they bite another. The females can also recycle the disease by passing it on to new generations in their eggs.
The mosquito that most often carries dengue is called aedes albopictus, which is common in tropical areas. Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani, an Asia regional advisor for the WHO, says dengue spreads swiftly in places where lots of humans meet lots of aedes mosquitoes, meaning cities. "Many dengue cases are occurring in the urban or suburban areas," said Dr. Oshitani. "The rural environment is not optimal for the dengue spread."
Sparsely populated rural areas have plenty of mosquitoes, but the low density of humans lessens the risk of transmission. In urban areas, with their high concentrations of humans, doctors say, the spread of dengue can be exponential.
Southeast Asia, with its juxtaposition of high population densities and tropical climates, is a perfect environment for the spread of dengue. Dense urban clusters are interspersed with areas of lush tropical vegetation. Dr. Ho says breeding grounds for the mosquitoes can be found everywhere in the modern urban environment. "They can breed in empty lunch boxes, empty cans, the small containers containing less than 100 mils [milliliters] water," he explained. "They can survive and breed."
Hong Kong's government warns of this frequently in a campaign of public service announcements. "Change the water inside vases and containers of watered plants, and change them at least once a week."
The government monitors the mosquito population with a simple device called an "ovitrap," a suspended cylinder filled with a moist solution that is attractive to female mosquitoes. By counting the eggs that are laid in it, inspectors compile what they call an "ovitrap index" to track monthly changes in the mosquito population.
The authorities say keeping the mosquito population low is the best-known preventive measure against dengue. They scrutinize districts where index levels are high, especially construction sites, where hollow bamboo scaffolding collects summer rains.
Dr. Ho says keeping mosquitoes away from humans is good public health policy in general. "Dengue endemic areas, many of them, are also endemic for other mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria and Japanese encephalitis," he noted.
In the longer run, the World Health Organization is sounding an optimistic note about the fight against dengue. The organization says, if progress continues at its current rate, a vaccine could be available within several years.
Kurt Achin on VOA news, Hong Kong.
dengue fever n. [医] 登革热（一种热带传染病，骨关节及肌肉奇痛）
World Health Organization 简称WHO，世界卫生组织
hospitalization [7hCspitElai5zeiFEn] n. 住院治疗
predominantly [pri5dCmineitli] adv. 占统治地位地
urban [5E:bEn] adj. 城市的，市内的
container [kEn5teinE] n. 容器（箱、盆、罐等)
malaria [mE5lZEriE] n. 疟疾
parasitic [7pArE5sitik] adj. 寄生的
monsoon [mCn5su:n] n. 季风
sharp [FB:p] adv. 急速地
spike [spaik] v. 增强了……的效果
milder [5mildE] adj. 温和的
symptom [5simptEm] n. 症状
rash [rAF] n. 皮疹
muscle pain 肌肉痛
fatal [5feitl] adj. 致命的
theoretically [WiE5retikEli] adv. 理论上
Asia-Pacific region 亚太地区
Eastern Mediterranean 地中海中部
outbreak [5autbreik] n.（疾病的）发作
endemic [en5demik] adj. 地方病的
territory [5teritEri] n. 地域
consultant [kEn5sQltEnt] n. 顾问
Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department 香港食品和环境卫生署
Philippines [5filipi:nz] n. 菲律宾共和国
Thailand [5tailAnd] n. 泰国（亚洲国家）
Indonesia [7indEu5ni:zjE] n. 印尼（东南亚岛国）
Singapore [7siN^E5pC:] n. 新加坡（东南亚国家）
Malaysia [mE5leiFE] n. 马来群岛（位于东南亚）
Cambodia [kAm5bEudiE] n. 柬埔寨（东南亚国家）
Sri Lanka [sri5lANkE] n. 斯里兰卡（南亚岛国）
aedes albopictus 白纹伊蚊
tropical areas 热带地区
swiftly [swiftli] adv. 很快地，即刻
rural [5rJEr(E)l] adj. 乡下的，田园的
exponential [7ekspEu5nenFEl] adj. 迅速的，指数的，幂数的
juxtaposition [7dVQkstEpE5ziFEn] n. 同时，并列
density [5densiti] n. 密度
urban clusters 城市群
intersperse [7intE(:)5spE:s] vt. 散布
lush [lQF] adj. 繁茂的
vegetation [7vedVi5teiFEn] n.（总称）植物
lunch boxes 午餐盒
milliliter [5mIlIli:tE(r)] n. 千分之一公升，毫升
vase [vB:z] n. 瓶
cylinder [5silindE] n. 圆筒，圆柱体
ovitrap index 诱蚊产卵器指数
scrutinize [5skrutinaiz] n. 细察
construction sites 建筑工地
hollow bamboo 空心的竹子
scaffolding [5skAfEldIN] n. 抬架，支架
Japanese encephalitis 日本脑炎，乙型脑炎
vaccine [5vAksi:n] n. 疫苗