Published: 11:20, May 2, 2024
PDF View
Dengue sparks concern in Latin America
By Jimena Esteban in Buenos Aires, Argentina
A dengue fever patient walks inside a hospital on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, on April 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

The dengue outbreak across Latin America has reached alarming levels with reported cases already surpassing 5.2 million this year.

"We have an emergency situation," Jarbas Barbosa, director of the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO, told the media recently.

"We call dengue a 'silent epidemic' because the COVID-19 situation somewhat overshadowed the dengue issue as circulation decreased during quarantine measures," Maria Victoria Micieli, lead investigator at Argentina's National Scientific and Technical Research Council and director of the Centre for Parasitological and Vector Studies, said.

READ MORE: Dengue cases surge by nearly 50% in Americas, UN agency says

The speed at which dengue is spreading across the continent is unprecedented. In 2024, dengue has claimed 1,800 lives, up from 1,000 in the first three months of this year.

Argentina and Brazil have been the hardest hit countries, together accounting for a majority of the cases. In Argentina, a record 57,461 cases were reported in the first eight weeks of 2024.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that is rapidly spreading across the globe due to factors such as urbanization and travel.

"In Argentina this year, there was a lot of community movement," said Micieli.

Serious increases are also being seen elsewhere.

Medical authorities in Peru reported that cases and deaths have more than tripled in 2024 compared to the same period last year. The government is struggling particularly in poorer areas to contain the spread, and President Dina Boluarte has approved an "emergency decree" to ramp up the national response.

ALSO READ: WHO chief: Climate crisis, pollution escalate disease burden

Because of the El Nino climate pattern, there is going to be very heavy precipitation this year, creating many more breeding sites for the vector, Micieli noted.

While a vaccine exists, PAHO warned that limited availability means transmission cannot be curbed immediately.

"Getting vaccinated will be important to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system," said Micieli.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.