Travelers Advisory in Effect for Latin America and Caribbean for Dengue Fever
We had planned to return to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Just after I had finalized our airline schedule and was trying to send our deposit to the resort on Virgin Gorda, my husband came across the article below. Needless to say, we cancelled both our reservation at the resort and our airline reservation. Travelers Advisories from the Center of Disease Control are not to be taken lightly. Here is the article.
Dengue fever spreads in L. America and Caribbean; officials plan crisis talksProvided by: Canadian Press
Written by: Michael Melia, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sep. 29, 2007
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Dengue fever is spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean in one of the worst outbreaks in decades, causing agonizing joint pain for hundreds of thousands of people and killing nearly 200 so far this year.
The mosquitoes that carry dengue are thriving in expanded urban slums scattered with water-collecting trash and old tires. Experts say dengue is approaching record levels this year as many countries enter their wettest months.
"If we do not slow it down, it will intensify and take a greater social and economic toll on these countries," said Dr. Jose Luis San Martin, head of anti-dengue efforts for the Pan American Health Organization, a regional public health agency.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has posted advisories this year for people visiting Latin American and Caribbean destinations to use mosquito repellant and stay inside screened areas whenever possible.
"The danger is that the doctors at home don't recognize the dengue," said Dr. Wellington Sun, the chief of the CDC's dengue branch in San Juan. "The doctors need to raise their level of suspicion for any traveler who returns with a fever."
Dengue has already damaged the economies of countries across the region by driving away tourists, according to a document prepared for a PAHO conference beginning Monday in Washington.
Some countries have focused mosquito eradication efforts on areas popular with tourists. Mexico sent hundreds of workers to the resorts of Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Acapulco this year to try to avert outbreaks.
Health ministers from across the region meet at the PAHO conference and San Martin said he will urge them to devote more resources to dengue fever.
The tropical virus was once thought to have been nearly eliminated from Latin America, but it has steadily gained strength since the early 1980s. Now, officials fear it could emerge as a pandemic similar to one that became a leading killer of children in Southeast Asia following the Second World War.
Officials say the virus is likely to grow deadlier in part because tourism and migration are circulating four different strains across the region. A person exposed to one strain may develop immunity to that strain - but subsequent exposure to another strain makes it more likely the person will develop the hemorrhagic form.
"The main concern is what's happening in the Americas will recapitulate what has happened in Southeast Asia, and we will start seeing more and more severe types of cases of dengue as time progresses," Sun said.
The disease - known as "bonebreak fever" because of the pain - can incapacitate patients for as long as a week with flu-like symptoms. A deadly hemorrhagic form, which also causes internal and external bleeding, accounts for less than five per cent of cases but has shown signs of growing.