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Reality bites

At least eight people have died in Honduras because of dengue haemorrhagic fever so far this year, the Ministry of Health has reported in a statement. And with the rainy season just starting, there are concerns that numbers may rise. Last year, the disease caused a total of 12 deaths, eight of which were boys.

The epidemic has increased alarmingly in the first half of 2010, with about 7,000 cases, triple the figure recorded in the same period of 2009. In this regard, health authorities are advising people to try to eliminate the breeding sites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the disease. Symptoms following on from an infected mosquito bite are high fever, headache and joint pain.

So far this year there have been more than 6,000 cases of dengue fever itself, and another 400 of a dangerous, haemorrhagic variant of the disease – which can be lethal.

The dengue treatment room at the Maternal and Child Hospital became so busy this weekend that doctors were forced to treat children two to a table.

The onset of rains and tropical storms in Central America has also led to the proliferation of the disease in other Central American countries, such as Costa Rica, which has also already seen more than 7,000 cases this year.

Health officials say if they do not receive the support of the population, cases of dengue fever will continue to rise. ‘In 1960, Latin America was regarded as an area almost free of dengue. But since then, urbanization and travel have contributed to the disease re-emerging quickly,’ said Dr. Roberto Tapia-Conyer, director general of the Carso Institute of Health.

Diana Arceo Sanchez, director of Health Services of Campeche, points out that, while not wanting to cause alarm, it is necessary to create awareness to motivate the actions of the authorities and the population. It is estimated that 7 out of 10 Campeche citizens have been in contact with one of the four strains of the virus’s serotype, putting them at risk of dengue hemorrhagic fever. This can be confirmed by a quick test using a blood sample.

The areas of Honduras with the majority of cases are Atlántida, Francisco Morazán, Olancho, Cortes and Yoro; those with the lowest rate are Valle, La Paz, Ocotepeque and Islas de la Bahia. The health report also notes that over 130,000 homes have now been fumigated and another 112,000 houses have been sprayed – the product of the intensive campaign that has been launched since the recent upsurge in cases was first detected.

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