Latin America experiences the most serious dengue epidemic in years

20/03/2020

Dengue continues to be a public health problem in Latin America despite the efforts made by the region's governments, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

According to a report by the Pan American Health Organization, in February 2019, the region had an impressive statistic so far: 3,139,335 people with dengue fever and 1,538 deaths. Image: Pixabay
According to a report by the Pan American Health Organization, in February 2019, the region had an impressive statistic so far: 3,139,335 people with dengue fever and 1,538 deaths. Image: Pixabay

Dengue is a systemic and dynamic infectious disease that can be asymptomatic or expressed with a broad clinical spectrum. After the incubation period, the disease begins abruptly and goes through three phases: febrile, critical and recovery. In each of these phases, serious and non-serious expressions are included, which can take the patient from benign states to a severe clinical evolution with outcomes that can cause death.

Latin America is experiencing the most serious dengue epidemic in recent years, according to PAHO's February 12, 2019 report, showing the impressive statistics of 3,139,335 people infected and 1,538 deaths in the region.

The first months of 2020

So far this year, the organization itself reports 661,767 confirmed cases of the disease in Latin America, 1,820 severe cases, for a total of 663,587 cases. The victims total 156 deaths, most of them in the Southern Cone (104) and the Andean sub-region (37).

Most affected countries

The countries with the highest incidence of the disease are Argentina (648 cases), Bolivia (45,787 cases, 12 deaths), Brazil (337,243 cases, 58 deaths), Colombia (31,010 cases, 10 deaths), Ecuador (2,330 cases), Paraguay (184,434 cases, 46 deaths) and Peru (8,221 cases, 11 deaths).

The transmission of the virus

Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. The Aedes aegypti, female mosquitoes are the main source of transmission. This species bites humans during the day, with the most active feeding period 2 hours before and 2 hours after sunrise and sunset.

If the mosquito bites an infected person and ingests blood containing the dengue virus, it incubates the virus for a period of 8 to 12 days, after which the mosquito begins transmitting the virus when it bites others. The infected person may have symptoms 5 to 7 days after infection.

Mechanical transmission can also occur when the mosquito stops feeding on an infected person and immediately switches to feeding on a susceptible host. This form of transmission does not require incubation of the virus.

Illustrative photo: Pixabay
Illustrative photo: Pixabay

The deadly side of the virus

The most severe form of dengue is called "dengue hemorrhagic" and as its name suggests it causes death by internal bleeding. It currently affects most countries in Asia and Latin America, becoming one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death in children and adults in those regions.

The global incidence of the epidemic

The incidence of dengue fever in the world has increased in recent decades. WHO estimates that there are about 390 million dengue infections each year.

Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced serious dengue epidemics, while the disease is now listed as "endemic" in more than 100 countries in the Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions, with the Americas, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific being the regions hardest hit by the virus.

In Europe, the first transmission of the virus occurred in France and Croatia in 2010; in 2012, an outbreak of dengue fever was detected in the Madeira archipelago in Portugal and imported cases were reported in 10 other European countries in addition to mainland Portugal.