Bamako, Dec 6 (AP) Dengue fever is on the rise in Mali, where officials are reporting new infections and deaths from the virus this week.

Mali's director general of health and public hygiene, Dr Cheick Amadou Tidiane Traore, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that his department had counted 21 deaths and 600 cases of the virus as of Monday.

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Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes that mostly causes flu-like illness. In severe cases, the disease can cause joint pain, swollen glands, severe bleeding and death. There is no specific treatment protocol, but two vaccines have been recommended by the World Health Organisation for countries that suffer regular outbreaks.

The Malian government has not yet officially released any figures on the disease to the general public, nor has it announced whether or not it has requested aid from the World Health Organisation. With the country in political transition already facing the threat of armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and a large number of displaced people, a new epidemic of dengue fever risks worsening the humanitarian situation.

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“Dengue fever is also present in Burkina Faso and Senegal, and we need to raise public awareness," Traore said.

WHO has reported record cases of dengue so far this year in Bangladesh and the Americas, which have seen more than 300,000 cases and 4 million infections respectively. In August, the government of Chad reported the country's first-ever outbreak of dengue, with dozens of confirmed cases. Globally, scientists estimate there are about 96 million dengue infections every year. (AP)

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