The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Wednesday in an interview with Efe that it does not see “soon” the end of the dengue epidemic in Central America, where the disease has caused 211 deaths this year and has infected more than 240,000 people.
The PAHO representative in Honduras, Piedad Huerta, does not believe that the dengue epidemic in Central American countries can be eradicated in the short term, despite all the measures undertaken by regional health authorities with support from the organization.
“We are not so sure that we can really enter into a frank reduction of the epidemic soon but we are working hard with technical support to the ministries of Health,” he said.
He noted that Central America, like other territories of the Americas is an endemic area of dengue, because these nations have a native and installed vector. Really throughout Central America we have been surprised by the severity of the epidemic, especially by the circulation of serotype 2, the transmitter of severe dengue, said Huerta, a Mexican national.
According to the last update of September, PAHO accounted for 241,328 cases of the disease in Central America, of which 211 resulted in the death of patients. Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua are some of the countries most affected by the spread of this virus that is spread through the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, also a transmitter of Zika and Chikungunya diseases.
Huerta explained that the outbreak has particularly affected Central American countries because the region has “a lot of vegetation and a lot of heat,” as well as a shortage of water that forces people to store water to have a disposal.
Nicaragua is the country that has reported the highest number of infected by the virus, with a total of 109,084 people, while Honduras is the state with the highest lethality rate since 142 of the 78,728 diagnosed have died. Guatemala records 25,738 cases of dengue and 44 deaths; in El Salvador, 19,102 people have become ill, of which 6 have died; Costa Rica reports 5,164 infected, while Panama counts 3,513 sick and three dead, according to PAHO data.
The PAHO representative said that Honduras is experiencing the “most serious” dengue epidemic in its history by a number of infected and deceased people. He noted that all Central American countries have “social determinants,” such as the poor water distribution system, which generate greater vulnerability to dengue.
In his opinion, the control of environments is key to stop the spread of the mosquito and, for this, it is necessary that citizens have access to information on preventive measures.
“It is all a job that has to be done from the elementary education of children, we must start now, we must not wait any longer,” said Huerta, who said that it is also necessary to work “much more with the awareness” of adults.
He also stressed the importance of not lowering the guard and continuing to eliminate hatcheries to prevent the spread of this disease, although he said that the outbreak has begun to be controlled. Children are those with a higher risk of serious health complications after contracting dengue.
In that sense, Huerta defends the importance of citizens attending medical services when they detect any of the warning signs, such as strong fevers, severe headache, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.
He noted that Honduras, which records more than 70% of the cases of severe dengue reported in America, has indicated to the rest of Central America that the fight against dengue has to be “intensified work” to control the disease.
He also said that there are no unique ways to control dengue since it is a multicausal disease and many of these factors are related to climate change, the weakness of health services and poor public awareness.