PAHO Calls on Regional Countries to Prepare for Possible Dengue Outbreaks

WASHINGTON,
United States, Monday March 4, 2019 – 
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has called for countries in Latin
America and the Caribbean to prepare for a timely response to possible
outbreaks of dengue.

The disease is endemic in
the region and, since its reintroduction in the 1980s, has caused cyclical
outbreaks and epidemics every three to five years.The first dengue
epidemic with over one million cases occurred in the Americas in 2010. Three
years later, in 2013, the first epidemic with more than two million cases
occurred. At the beginning of 2019, there was an increase in cases compared to
the same period of 2018, PAHO said.

“Dengue is
a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes that is widespread in the
Americas,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable
Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health. “Its complexity has been
increasing over the years due to several factors such as unplanned urban
growth, water and sanitation problems, climate change, and, in some countries,
the simultaneous circulation of all four types of dengue, which increases the
risk of serious cases and outbreaks.”

According to PAHO’s
latest epidemiological update on dengue, published on February 22, 560,586 cases of dengue were reported in the
Americas last year, including 3535 severe cases of dengue and 336 deaths.
During the first six weeks of 2019, almost 100,000 cases of dengue were
reported, including 632 cases of severe dengue and 28 deaths.

The main
recommendations from PAHO focus on countries intensifying disease surveillance,
as well as vector control measures to reduce mosquito populations that transmit
the disease. Currently, the only way to
control or prevent the transmission of the virus is the fight against Aedes
aegypti
, the main mosquito vector.

PAHO also
recommends continuing to educate the population, as well as community
involvement initiatives. PAHO also requests that countries ensure that health
professionals are trained in the diagnosis of dengue and other arboviruses, as
well as in the adequate management of patients with these diseases. PAHO provides technical cooperation to prevent and control the
disease. 

Dr Espinal
explained that the timely diagnosis of the disease has become more complex with
the arrival of two new arboviruses: the Chikungunya virus in 2013 and the Zika
virus in 2015, which present similar symptomatology. However, despite the
introduction of these new arboviruses, dengue is the one that presents the
highest number of diseases.

Dengue is also a more
lethal arbovirus than chikungunya and Zika, but its treatment is relatively
simple, inexpensive and very effective in saving lives, PAHO noted.

“The key is recognizing the
warning signs early and providing the care required to prevent it progressing
to more serious forms,” said José Luis San Martin, PAHO’s regional advisor on
dengue.

If a physician is not sure whether a patient is presenting with dengue, Chikungunya or Zika, PAHO recommends that the clinical management and treatment of dengue begin immediately, without waiting for a laboratory diagnosis. PAHO also recommends that the patient be monitored daily or at least every 48 hours in order to pick up on any serious warning signs, particularly during the critical phase of the disease.

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