WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday September 11, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging Caribbean countries to eradicate the breeding sites of mosquitoes that transmit dengue and the chikungunya virus even as it warned of a possible increase in patients suffering from these diseases.
Since the start of the year, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported nearly 850,000 cases of dengue and 470 deaths from severe dengue.
PAHO said that between December 2013 and September 5, this year, 650,000 cases of chikungunya, including 37 deaths, have been reported.
It said both dengue and chikungunya are transmitted by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which are present in the vast majority of countries of the Americas including the Caribbean and that chikungunya cases resulting from local transmission have been confirmed in a number of Caribbean countries.
“We are approaching the season when there is more transmission of dengue, and we also face the risk that chikungunya will reach other countries of the Americas,” said Luis Gerardo Castellanos, chief of PAHO’s Neglected, Tropical and Vector-Borne Diseases unit.
“That’s why we need the countries to integrate their efforts to prevent and control both diseases.”
PAHO is urging regional countries to strengthen existing dengue prevention and control strategies and apply them to chikungunya as well.
It is recommending stepped-up efforts in six areas: patient care, social communication, epidemiological surveillance, laboratory-based diagnostic capacity, integrated vector (mosquito) control, and the environment.
For mosquito control, PAHO recommends information campaigns to educate the public on how to eliminate mosquito breeding sites in homes, efforts to eliminate breeding sites from communal areas, such as parks, schools, and cemeteries, and spraying in areas where it is deemed necessary.
“All sectors of government, communities and families need to work together to fight this vector, which tends to live in our homes,” said José Luis San Martín, PAHO’s regional advisor on dengue.
“The fewer mosquitoes we have circulating, the fewer people will be at risk of bites and of contracting these diseases.”
PAHO also recommends that countries organise their health services to ensure rapid referral of patients with symptoms of severe dengue, which requires specialized medical care.
It said symptoms of dengue include high fever, headache and muscle pain. Severe forms of dengue can cause difficulties in breathing, hemorrhage and even death if patients do not receive early and appropriate treatment.
PAHO said chikungunya causes high fever initially, accompanied by joint pain. Severe complications are uncommon, but older adults with chronic diseases, children and pregnant women are at risk of more serious illness, PAHO said, noting there is currently no vaccine for either disease.