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PAHO urges strengthening dengue prevention in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has urged countries of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean to strengthen preventive measures against this disease.

In an epidemiological alert issued on Friday, PAHO pointed to the importance of strengthening surveillance, diagnosis, and vector control actions, as well as preparing health services for the proper management of patients.

“The aim is to prevent complications and avoid possible overcrowding of health services,” said PAHO, noting that dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that, in most cases, has no symptoms.

“However, when symptoms do occur, they usually include high fever, headache, body aches, nausea and rash,” it added. “Although most people recover within one to two weeks, some can develop severe forms that require hospitalisation. These can be fatal when not treated promptly and properly.”

As of mid-May 2024, PAHO said the Americas region, including the Caribbean, has reported more than 8.1 million suspected cases of dengue, marking a 3.3-fold increase compared to the same period last year.

The countries with the highest number of reported cases are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, while more than 3,600 dengue-related deaths have been reported throughout the region.

Meanwhile, PAHO said countries and territories in the Caribbean have reported over 21,000 cases, representing a 5.7-fold increase compared to the corresponding period last year.

Faced with this unprecedented regional increase in dengue cases, PAHO urged countries to intensify efforts to combat the mosquito vector and the disease, for which there is no specific treatment.

In the epidemiological alert, PAHO emphasises the importance of timely clinical diagnosis, early identification of warning signs, and proper management of patients to avoid serious cases and deaths.

The health organisation also called on healthcare workers to provide clear guidance to patients and their families to monitor warning signs and seek immediate medical attention in the event of any of these signs.

PAHO said it offers resources and training through its virtual course on dengue, available free of charge on its Virtual Campus for Public Health.

The health body also recommended that member states make effective use of available resources to prevent and/or control vector infestations in affected areas and health services.

It reminded the population of the importance of eliminating mosquito breeding sites in their homes and surroundings and taking precautions to avoid bites, such as the use of repellent and clothing that covers the arms and legs.

PAHO reiterated its commitment to support countries in the implementation of effective measures in the fight against dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases and said it will continue to monitor the situation and provide technical guidance to affected countries.