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US-based media house explores regional rise in dengue cases for 2019

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Chikungunya mosquito

Posted: Monday, December 23, 2019. 7:16 am CST.

By BBN Staff: National Public Radio (NPR), a privately and publicly funded non-profit media organization based in Washington D.C., says that there are several factors that lead to the number of dengue cases rising to record highs in 2019, particularly in Latin America.

NPR published an article on its website this week, citing World Health Organization (WHO) statistics which say that Latin America has recorded the highest number of dengue cases in history. NPR also cited statistics that showed Latin America had experienced nearly 3 million reported cases this year, which is more than 20 percent higher than the previous record in 2015.

After speaking with various experts, NPR concluded that climate change played a major role in the spread of the mosquito-borne disease, along with economic factors, the presence of the Zika virus in the region back in 2016 and people’s natural immunity to dengue all playing lesser but still important roles in the increase.

The NPR report featured comments from Leah Katzelnick, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley working on dengue in Nicaragua. She said the weather disturbances that hit the region this year has health authorities, “just fighting against everything,” noting that mosquitoes will lay their eggs anywhere there is stagnant water. Raman Velayudhan, a mosquito specialist working at the WHO, supported Katzelnick ‘s theory of climate connection, saying that warmer temperatures, high humidity, and abnormal rains have contributed to this year’s surge and noted that, “If you have less rainfall, people hoard water.”

Gabriela Paz-Bailey, senior epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dengue Branch in Puerto Rico, added that “Increased urbanization (in Latin America) provides the right environment for these mosquitoes, in areas with large populations and poor sanitation. And that just provides breeding sites for the mosquitoes next to people.”

Belize was not exempt from the spike in dengue, with estimates saying that hundreds of cases are reported each week, and an estimated six people dying this year due to complications relating to dengue. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has repeatedly pleaded with communities to ensure that mosquito breeding sites are minimized and held several clean up campaigns throughout the year. The official results on the total number of dengue cases for 2019 will not be ready until some time in early 2020.

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