Tuesday, April 23, 2024

PAHO warns Caribbean of increase in dengue cases


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WASHINGTON – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is warning of an upsurge in dengue cases in the Americas including Barbados and the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

It says as of March 26, this year, over 3.5 million cases and more than 1 000 deaths have been reported in the region.

“This is cause for concern, as it represents three times more cases than those reported for the same period in 2023, a record year with more than 4.5 million cases reported in the region,” said PAHO Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa.

PAHO said while dengue is on the rise throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, which account for 92 per cent of cases and 87 per cent of deaths.

This increase is attributed to the higher transmission season in the southern hemisphere, when the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector of dengue thrives due to warm and rainy weather.

However, Dr Barbosa cautioned that “we are also seeing an uptick in cases in countries such as Barbados, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Martinique and Mexico, where transmission is usually higher in the second half of the year”.

The PAHO Director also noted the presence of the mosquito vector and cases in new geographical areas, raising concerns that some countries may not be prepared to face an increase in transmission.

Several environmental and social factors contribute to the spread of dengue, including rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and the El Niño phenomenon. Rapid population growth and unplanned urbanisation also play a crucial role: poor housing conditions and inadequate water and sanitation services create mosquito breeding sites through discarded objects that can collect water.

PAHO maintains a rigorous surveillance of dengue in the region and has issued nine epidemiological alerts in the past 12 months, providing essential guidance to Member States on disease prevention and control.

The presence of all four dengue serotypes in the region increases the risk of epidemics and severe forms of the disease. The simultaneous circulation of two or more dengue serotypes has been observed in 21 countries and territories of the Americas.

Dr Barbosa emphasized the importance of taking prompt action to prevent and control dengue transmission and avoid deaths, noting that “despite the record increase in cases in 2023, the dengue case fatality rate in the region remained below 0.05 per cent.

“This is very encouraging, considering the spikes in cases we have seen since then,” he said.

PAHO said this accomplishment has been possible mainly due to its support to countries since 2010 through a comprehensive strategy to control dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. This strategy includes strengthening surveillance, early diagnosis, and timely treatment, and has contributed significantly to saving thousands of lives.

The PAHO Director called for action, urging intensified efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and protect against mosquito bites, increase preparedness in health services for early diagnosis and timely clinical management, and continuous work to educate the population about dengue symptoms and when to seek prompt medical attention.

“Facing the dengue problem is a task for all sectors of society,” Dr Barbosa said, calling for “community engagement in order to succeed in our efforts”. (CMC)


  1. Dengue is starting to concern tourists. I’m hoping the government of Barbados will implement a program to release male mosquitoes with the natural wolbachia bacteria, that kills off the dengue virus. It has been proven in Singapore and elsewhere.

    The non-profit World Mosquito Program works with partner countries to implement this program – we need it in Barbados.


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