Dengue fever rife in the Caribbean

and Latin America

News Published: Wednesday, 17-Oct-2007 Print -

Even though Latin America and the Caribbean are facing up to one of the worst outbreaks of dengue fever in decades, this information is not being passed on to travellers.

Warnings about the threat of Dengue in the region have been issued by both the Pan American Health Organisation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

The Pan American Health Organisation says cases of the mosquito-borne illness, nicknamed "breakbone fever" for its agonising symptoms, could well reach epidemic proportions this winter.

The CDC too has issued a dengue-outbreak notice for destinations including Mexico, Brazil, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

To date 5,400 people in the Dominican Republic have been hospitalised and up to 60 new cases are being reported every day. Health authorities in Puerto Rico and Jamaica have issued alerts, and the government of St Lucia is also on alert as it says current conditions would sustain a dengue epidemic.

There have already been 630,356 cases of dengue fever reported across Latin America and the Caribbean this year which is 11% more than in the whole of 2006.

Dengue fever symptoms are flu-like with severe pain in joints and behind the eyes and although most victims recover after a few days, 12,147 have developed haemorrhagic fever where internal and external bleeding occurs and 183 of those have died.

The female Aedes mosquitoes is the culprit and it infects humans with the disease when they bite; symptoms usually develop within 4-7 days of a person being bitten.

Experts warn that warm, wet conditions this winter, caused by the climatic event known as La Ni?could push total cases over 1m yet few tour operators pass this information on.

Experts say there is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever and 5% of those infected develop either haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome; both are extremely serious and require hospitalisation. Health officials focus on eradicating mosquitoes to prevent infections.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against being bitten by using insect repellent especially at dawn and dusk which are peak biting times, but travellers can be bitten any time during the day. They should check that hotels provide mosquito nets.

A Dengue fever epidemic has killed 389 people and infected more than 38,000 in Cambodia, which is battling one of the worst outbreaks in years.

Brazil declares dengue epidemic;

over 480,000 cases reported

Rio de Janeiro, Oct 17 - Earth Times -With 481,000 cases reported in the first nine months of this year, Brazil is facing an epidemic of dengue fever, the Spanish news agency EFE quoted Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao as saying.

'It's already an epidemic really. This year 121 people have already died,' Gomes Temporao said Tuesday while launching a new national campaign to combat the disease in the city of Belo Horizonte.

'It is a disease that kills and can only be dealt with effectively through a large-scale mobilization of society,' the minister said.

The numbers up to September indicate that 2007 could be one of the country's worst years for the number of people who get sick and who die from dengue.

Until now, Brazil's highest toll from dengue fever came in 2002, with 794,000 reported cases and 150 deaths.

As of last July, when the number of cases was already 45 percent over 2006, the government refused to admit that the country was facing an epidemic.

'Dengue is a serious problem and it kills. This year 1,076 people had dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is the worst strain of the disease,' Gomes Temporao said.

'The scenario this year is negative and for that reason we are launching a campaign before the rainy season, when the mosquito carrying the virus proliferates,' he said.

'We still have time to take preventive measures, but the results depend on everyone doing their part,' he said.

The National Campaign for Mobilization against Dengue launched Tuesday plans to transmit information on radio and television, as well as through the distribution of booklets with recommendations on how to prevent it, chiefly in the southeastern and central-western regions of the country.

The chief recommendation is to avoid leaving objects outdoors in which stagnant water can collect, such as bottles, tyres and deactivated swimming pools, which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus.