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PAHO Warns of Surge in Dengue Cases Across the Americas

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued a stark warning today regarding the alarming surge in dengue cases sweeping across the Americas. As of March 26, 2024, the region has reported over 3.5 million cases and tragically, more than 1,000 deaths due to the disease.

"This surge is deeply concerning, as it marks a threefold increase compared to the same period in 2023, a year that already saw a record-breaking 4.5 million cases reported in the region," stated PAHO Director, Jarbas Barbosa, during a press briefing.

While dengue outbreaks are proliferating throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the most severely impacted countries include Brazil (83%), Paraguay (5.3%), and Argentina (3.7%), collectively accounting for 92% of cases and 87% of deaths. This surge is primarily attributed to the heightened transmission season in the southern hemisphere, characterized by warm and rainy weather conditions ideal for the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector.

Dr. Barbosa highlighted the concerning trend of rising cases in countries such as Barbados, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Martinique, and Mexico, where transmission rates typically peak in the latter half of the year.

Furthermore, the presence of the mosquito vector and cases in new geographical areas raises fears that certain countries may be ill-prepared to confront an escalation in transmission.

Various environmental and social factors exacerbate the spread of dengue, including rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and the El Niño phenomenon. Rapid population growth and unplanned urbanization exacerbate the issue, with substandard housing conditions and inadequate water and sanitation services creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

PAHO maintains stringent surveillance of dengue in the region and has issued nine epidemiological alerts in the past year, offering crucial guidance to Member States on disease prevention and control measures.

The presence of all four dengue serotypes in the region heightens the risk of epidemics and severe forms of the disease, with simultaneous circulation observed in 21 countries and territories across the Americas.

Dr. Barbosa stressed the urgency of taking swift action to prevent and control dengue transmission, emphasizing the need to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, enhance preparedness in health services for early diagnosis and treatment, and educate the public about dengue symptoms and the importance of seeking medical attention promptly.

He lauded the region's achievement in maintaining a low dengue case fatality rate below 0.05%, despite the surge in cases witnessed since 2023, attributing this success to PAHO's comprehensive strategy implemented since 2010. This strategy focuses on strengthening surveillance, facilitating early diagnosis, and ensuring timely treatment, contributing significantly to saving countless lives.

Dr. Barbosa underscored the importance of concerted efforts across all sectors of society, calling for community engagement to effectively combat the dengue crisis and protect public health.

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