Washington, March 25, 2009 (PAHO)—Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization, today called on all countries in the Americas to increase their efforts and work together in the fight against dengue, which has broken out in almost every country in the Region.
Serious dengue outbreaks in Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and significant numbers of cases in other countries should put the entire Region on alert, said Dr. Roses. She said it was urgent that governments "strengthen surveillance, control mosquito breeding sites and clinical management of the patient, and make avoiding deaths their first priority."
The only way to prevent dengue transmission is to combat the disease-carrying mosquitoes, which breed in small pools of water around homes. There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue, but appropriate medical care frequently saves the lives of patients with the most serious form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Dr. Roses said public awareness and community participation play a key role in fighting dengue. The most effective prevention efforts are cleaning up stagnant water in old tires, vases and water containers where mosquitoes can breed, including containers inside houses as well as in patios or yards. Personal protection is also important; people should use repellents and avoid exposure to mosquitoes, especially among children.
Dengue is common in tropical climates, particularly in cities and peri-urban areas, and has emerged in almost every country in the Americas.
So far in 2009, countries have reported 113,758 cases of dengue, including 2,052 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue with complications, and 42 deaths. Last year, countries reported 850,769 cases, including more than 38,000 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever and 584 deaths.
Dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue virus strains. Symptoms appear 3 to 14 days after the infective bite. Symptoms range from a mild fever to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. The most serious forms are dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, which can lead to death. There are no specific antiviral medicines for dengue, but it is important to maintain hydration.
The rise of dengue is due in part to the spread of informal settlements, lack of sewer systems and running water, and an overall deterioration of the physical environment, including crowded urban and suburban dwellings and lack of universal access to basic health services.
"Dengue is not only a health sector responsibility," Dr. Roses said. "It requires an integrated and multidisciplinary approach, including municipalities, and strong support of the mass media with clear and precise prevention and education measures. The health services must guarantee timely treatment. The community, church groups and associations should come together to clear neighborhoods of receptacles that can hold water and mosquitoes, and to share prevention information."
PAHO/WHO is providing technical cooperation in dengue prevention and response to outbreaks for all the countries in the Region, with experts in epidemiological surveillance in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR), as well as vector control, clinical management of the patient and risk communication.
PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
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