Middle East

Sudan experiences worst dengue fever outbreak for more than a decade

More than 1,400 people in Sudan have been diagnosed with dengue fever this year in the worst outbreak in the country for more than a decade.

Half of the country’s 18 states have registered cases and nine deaths recorded, including one child, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) who suspect the true number to be far higher.

Dr Muntasir Osman, the director general of emergencies at the federal ministry of health, said 2022 had seen “the largest spread of the fever geographically in the history of the country” with 1,430 cases registered.

Dengue fever is spread by infected mosquitoes usually found near still water sources or in water storage tanks. It has flu-like symptoms and can sometimes cause organ failure and death.

Osman blamed the heavy rains and a lack of “preventive” measures such as bed nets and insect repellants. “For economic reasons the country has lost many essential jobs in terms of preventive medicines. We no longer have the staff that used to work in observational health or workers who used to prepare things before a problem could happen.”

After last October’s military coup, Sudan is in turmoil, aggrevated by failed harvests and rising food prices.

Nima Saeed Abid, WHO’s chief in Sudan, said the confirmed cases were “the tip of the iceberg”.

“Some [people] present with mild cases, others consult traditional healers or just rely on home remedies and therefore do not report to the health facilities. What are reported to the health facilities are the most severe cases that require admission or medical care,” he said.

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North Kordofan, North Darfur and White Nile states are seeing dengue for the first time.

In North Kordofan state’s capital, El Obeid, photos of patients lying on the ground as hospitals run out of beds have circulated on social media. There are at least 1,200 cases suspected in North Kordofan, with 393 confirmed.

Dr Ibtihal Ibrahim, of the ministry of health in North Kordofan, said she kept her sick child with dengue at home.

“It’s not only my child, my entire neighbourhood is full of sick people with the fever, but they stayed at home to get natural remedies and some of them got drugs by themselves. They are treating themselves,” she said.

Ibrahim said medicine prices had soared. “I bought drips for my son with 3,500 Sudanese pounds (£5.20), which, just a few weeks ago, were only 600 pounds (90p).”

The WHO says dengue cases have increased eightfold over the past 20 years, due in part to better reporting of the disease. Research published in The Lancet Planetary Health last year suggested global warming was resulting in both malaria and dengue “being found in more areas, gradually emerging in previously unaffected places, and re-emerging in places where they had subsided”.


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