WASHINGTON D.C. United States, Friday May 30, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the number of dengue cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean increased five-fold between 2003 and 2013.
According to data presented this week at a high-level regional meeting on dengue hosted by PAHO, between 2009 and 2012, over 1 million cases were reported annually, on average, with more than 33,900 severe cases and 835 deaths.
PAHO said last year was one of the worst years for dengue in the hemisphere’s history, with 2.3 million cases, including 37,705 severe cases and 1,289 deaths.
By comparison, the number of cases reported region-wide in 2003 was 517,617, PAHO said.
Despite countries’ efforts to control the disease, PAHO warned that dengue continues to spread due to, among other reasons, uncontrolled, unplanned urbanization, lack of basic services in communities, poor environmental management and climate change.
In the Americas, nearly 500 million people are at risk of contracting the disease, PAHO said.
“Controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the disease, is a great regional and global challenge,” said Marcos Espinal, PAHO’s director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis.
“All government sectors, communities, and families have to work together to fight the vector and control this disease, which knows no borders, discriminates against no one , and is everyone’s problem, not just the health sector’s,” he added.
Espinal said Canada, continental Chile and Uruguay are the only countries in the region that have reported no dengue cases to date, despite the presence of Ades egypti mosquito in Uruguay.
He said the United States detected dengue for the first time in 2007 and, by 2013 had registered 1,292 cases, although none were severe or resulted in death.
But despite the increasing incidence of dengue, PAHO said the trend in case-fatality rates has been downward.
It said case fatality from dengue in the Americas fell from 0.07 percent to 0.05 percent in the last three years––a reduction attributed to better clinical management of patients since implementation of new PAHO guidelines began in 2010.
PAHO estimates that improvements in care prevented about 1,500 deaths last year, equivalent to over 25 percent of all deaths from the virus over the previous decade.
“Recognizing the lack of a vaccine or specific drugs for this health problem, countries have made major efforts to prevent deaths from dengue through timely treatment, following the new WHO recommendations,” said Luis Gerardo Castellanos, head of the PAHO’s Neglected, Tropical and Vector-borne Diseases Unit.
“Aedes aegypti is an urban mosquito that lives in our homes, which means we have to eliminate its breeding sites to prevent it from reproducing,” said José Luis San Martín, PAHO regional advisor on dengue.
He emphasized that “the fewer infected Aedes mosquitoes there are circulating, the fewer people will be at risk of being bitten and contracting the disease.”
In addition to dengue, PAHO said Aedes aegypti also transmits the chikungunya and yellow fever viruses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) chose vector-borne diseases, including dengue, as the theme of this year’s World Health Day, calling attention to these diseases as a global public health problem.