By Laura Núñez Marín
Bogota, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The Americas must take urgent action to minimise the consequences of dengue and the coronavirus outbreak, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned Thursday.
Dengue is a common disease in the region and has left 156 people dead so far this year and Covid-19 has caused another 120 deaths since it was first reported there three weeks ago.
PAHO warned in a recent report that the region could soon face the worst dengue epidemic in its history.
Marcos Espinal, director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health, told Efe: “It is estimated that 2020 will maintain a high incidence for the entire region.
“The first semester is very complex for the Southern Cone and we have started the year with high transmission situations in Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.”
This year 661,818 cases of dengue have already been reported and 1,820 have been diagnosed as severe or hemorrhagic fever.
“After two years of low incidence in 2017 and 2018, we had in the year of 2019 with 3.1 million dengue cases, the highest number in history,” Espinal added.
Dengue is one of the main causes of hospitalisation for children and adults with a high incidence in tropical climates.
The virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes Aegypti or yellow fever mosquito, which is also responsible for spreading other diseases such as chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika.
Covid-19 has also been spreading through the Americas with almost 7,000 confirmed cases.
Carlos Serrano, an insurance and health consultant, told Efe American governments needed to carry out a joint response to avoid an overload of health services.
There is a higher incidence of communicable diseases in the Americas than other regions, especially Latin America.
Serrano said that on many occasions “both the health system and the population” have not been able to stop the advance of epidemics like coronavirus and questioned “the extent to which the region is prepared to face a pandemic”.
The PAHO expert said it is important for the population to follow the recommendations of authorities and health professionals to protect themselves from both diseases and to know “when to go to the health centre so as not to overload the services”.
Espinal and Serrano agreed that dengue and coronavirus can be tackled by taking the same measures, which in the case of dengue should also focus on the elimination of breeding sites for mosquitos.
The PAHO director said handwashing, cough control, avoiding close contact with people with symptoms and following recommendations for social isolation in each country were fundamental measures that the population must adopt.
There have been 629,000 dengue cases reported as of February this year, an increase of 68 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
Countries in the Southern Cone have been the most affected by dengue this year with a report of 522,331 patients and 104 deaths.
Brazil has seen 337,243 cases and 58 deaths, Paraguay 184,434 infections and 46 fatalities, Argentina 648 and Chile four cases.