In 2019 so far, more than two million cases have been recorded in the Americas. Every year across the world the virus carried by the Aedes Aegypty mosquito takes people’s lives and causes many more to fall ill.
Marnie Fiallo Gómez
The awful insect, which is also the carrier of the zika virus, chikungunya and yellow fever, breeds rapidly in areas with lots of rubbish and solid waste, where still water can settle.
The World Health Organisation promotes strategies to raise awareness about the carrier and to raise the alarm about potential outbreaks – preventative strategies that might reduce the number of cases, identify high-risk locations and track how the virus is spread.
Therefore, despite the efforts of governments to avoid its spread, ‘transmission of dengue in South America and Central America is high,’ José Moya, the delegate of the World and Pan American health organisations in Cuba, said to Prensa Latina.
In relation to his recent participation in the 16th International Course on dengue, zika and other emerging arboviruses, Moya said that across the Americas around 70% of the population lives in conditions conducive to the spread of dengue, and it’s on the increase.
The priority is early identification of cases, easy access to health care for affected persons, and for awareness among health professionals and the general population in recognising the early warning signs that indicate a worsening condition.
Symptoms can present as abdominal pain, swelling of the eyelids, conjunctivitis, bleeding gums, swelling of the feet and legs, persistent and frequent vomiting, and irritability.
Cases of dengue are on the increase, and, talking to Prensa Latina, Cuban internal medicine specialist Osvaldo Castro urged people to learn about the virus’s symptoms so that they can protect themselves from possible complications.
This arbovirus is a feverish disease that can develop if there is a drop in plasma causing a shock to the system from the sharp reduction in blood volume. If not properly treated it can be fatal.
The classic symptoms of the virus are a fever lasting between 3 and 5 days, headaches, muscle ache, drowsiness, swelling of the lymph nodes, rash and trouble with digestion.
These are cause for concern often indicating that the patient is getting worse and needs medical intervention to replace their fluids and regain their full blood volume, said Castro.
Early identification of these symptoms can offer the opportunity for timely treatment and avoid an aggravation of the disease, which is totally preventable, advises Castro, who works as the lead of Medical Services at the Pedro Kouri Medical Institute (IPK).
Wide-ranging research is currently being undertaken in Cuba, including research centred on clinical practice, microbiology, vaccines, pathogens, individual’s genetics, epidemiology, and on the influence of climate change on the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
One notable investigation has tried to reduce transmission of the arbovirus by sterilising the aedes mosquito using radiation so that it cannot reproduce.
Another project has injected mosquitoes with the wolbachia bacteria, present in 60% of the zancudo mosquito but not in the aedes.
Having been injected, the mosquitoes are released so that they interbreed with the wild population and pass on the infection.
Once a large percentage has been infected, new releases are not necessary.
“If there’s a large population of resistant mosquitoes that do not carry the disease, outbreaks become easier to control and of course epidemics such as the one we’re currently seeing in the Americas do too,” Castro said.
Cuban scientists are also working on vaccines. One has already been licensed but only for use on individuals who have had the virus before, or in areas where there’s a specific need or where dengue is endemic. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: elizabethdann@bluey – Photos: Pixabay