South America Dengue Increase Brings Vaccination Drive
During the southern hemisphere summer, South America is experiencing a sharp increase in cases of dengue, a mosquito-borne disease common in much of Latin America.
The symptoms, or signs, of dengue are high fever, extreme tiredness, muscle pain, and internal bleeding. In Brazil, dengue is often called “breakbone fever” for the severe joint pain it causes. Sometimes, people with the disease show no symptoms. But dengue can be deadly.
New dengue vaccine
In Brazil, officials plan to start a new dengue vaccine campaign. The program, which could begin within days, will make Brazil the first country in the world to offer dengue vaccine.
In January, Brazil also started spraying insecticide from trucks as the disease spread to earlier unaffected areas. Because of the increase in dengue cases, hospitals in Paraguay have set up health centers at night to care for the sick.
A truck sprays a street with insecticide to kill the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The effort is aimed at slowing a dengue outbreak in the Santa Maria neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil, on January 23, 2024. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
In 2023, cases of dengue have set record highs in Latin America. Health official records show Argentina with a sharp increase of 12,500 cases of dengue last December. It is a big jump compared with the same period a year ago.
The increase has led to health warnings and shortages of insect repellent.
"Repellent sold out everywhere, there were literal clouds of mosquitoes," Laura Ledesma told Reuters from Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires. She added that there were signs the situation had begun to improve.
Weather changes are affecting the spread of disease
Scientists say the spread of dengue, in South America and other areas, is worsened by rising temperatures and the El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific. Both events also add to a longer dengue season.
"Climate change has expanded the range for mosquitoes to breed, both in the Americas and globally," Thais dos Santos told Reuters. He specializes in insect-borne diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO for short.
PAHO information shows 4.2 million cases of dengue and 2,050 deaths in the Americas last year. Much of that was in the so-called "Southern Cone" of South America.
The December-February southern summer months bring hot and humid conditions for mosquitoes to breed. This helps to spread the possibly deadly disease.
A dengue emergency medical care tent in the Samambaia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil January 23, 2024. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
Recently, people in Brasilia lined up outside medical centers set up to test for dengue. Dengue cases in the Brazilian capital have increased by as much as 646 percent in the first 20 days of January compared with last year.
Nelson Diego, 37, tested positive for dengue in the Brasilia neighborhood of Recanto das Emas where spraying has started. He said he was suffering from muscle pain and extreme tiredness from the disease, though some days were more difficult than others.
After testing positive for dengue, Nelson Diego receives treatment at a medical care unit in a neighborhood of Brasilia. Jan. 23, 2024. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
"Today is one of the better days because I can still open my eyes," he said. "I have a lot of pain in my joints and couldn't walk before."
And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.
Words in This Story
borne – adj. transported or transmitted by —used in combination such as airborne
symptom – n. a change in a living thing that indicates the presence of a disease or other physical disorder, especially : one (as a headache) that can be felt or sensed only by the individual affected
insecticide – n. a chemical used to kill insects
repellent – n. serving or tending to drive away or ward off : often used in combination — insect repellent
literal – adj. following the ordinary or usual meaning of the words
breed – v. to produce (plants or animals) by sexual reproduction
globally – adv. of, relating to, or involving the entire world
humid – adj. damp, moist
positive – adj. having a test result indicating the presence especially of a condition, substance, or organism