Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Mosquito-borne disease in El Salvador

The rainy season in El Salvador always brings outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases in El Salvador, primarily dengue.   This year, El Salvador has also had cases of chikungunya fever, a tropical disease with origins in Africa:

From an International Red Cross report:

Chikungunya fever is an emergent disease transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by an alpha virus - the chikungunya virus - which is transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes (the same species involved in dengue fever transmission).... 
El Salvador is the first country in Central America with a chikungunya outbreak. Several cases of fever and particular clinical symptoms have appeared since early June 2014 in the municipality of Axutuxtepeque in the Department of San Salvador. Given the situation, the Ministry of Health determined that the clinical picture of patients corresponded to chikungunya virus. 
According to Ministry of Health data to date, 1,300 suspected cases have been reported, distributed over 6 departments and 20 municipalities, with the possibility of spreading to the rest of the country due to the population's high susceptibility to this disease, as they have never come into contact before with the virus. 
 A National Geographic report on the virus describes the symptoms of the disease:
Chikungunya got its name from the phrase "which bends up" in the local dialect in Tanzania where it was first identified in the early 1950s. The term described the posture of someone with the disease, bent over with pain. 
Most victims suffer extreme joint pain for 5-12 days, making it hard for them to grasp things with their hands or put weight on their legs. The pain usually subsides by the two-week mark, but a small number of patients "continue to have sporadic bouts of joint pain, and we really don't understand why that is," Heise says. 
People middle-aged and older and those with preexisting medical conditions tend to suffer more than children and young adults, says Heise, whose research focuses on why the virus replicates in joints and why it causes an overreaction of the immune system. 
There is no vaccine or medication that can change the course of the disease, though patients are given painkillers and told to drink a lot of fluids, Morse says.
Meanwhile, cases of dengue have doubled since last year:
Cases of classic and hemorrhagic dengue have risen by 101% and 56% respectively this year in El Salvador compared to 2013, according to Health Vice-Minister Eduardo Espinoza. 
Up to July 6, classic dengue has "5,698 confirmed cases compared to 2,386 last year," Espinoza told reporters.
The government in El Salvador has been combating the duel threats of chikungunya and dengue with programs of fumigation to kill mosquito populations and public education campaigns to encourage households to eliminate sources of standing water where the disease carrying mosquitoes breed.


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