The Cuban Public Health Ministry (MINSAP) this week again called on people’s support to help eradicate the proliferation of the dengue transmitter Aedes aegypti mosquito during the summer months, when vector-associated diseases are on the increase.
The reiteration of the announcement follows reports that dengue has claimed its first human life in the province of Camaguey where there is a red alert health emergency.
In remarks to local television, MINSAP National Vector Control Director Juan Ramon Vazquez stated that people’s perception of risk is low, while there has been a marked increase in mosquito infestation levels in 23 municipalities this summer.
According to the expert, “Cuba has a security and vector control system higher than that of many nations, thanks to a trained army of activists and the acquisition of resources to face the problem, but individual efforts in the task are essential”.
Heat, humidity and abundant rain create the ideal breeding ground for the proliferation of the mosquito, which transmits dangerous diseases such as dengue and yellow fever, he said.
According to the official report, about 98 municipalities of Cuba have confirmed outbreaks of dengue and the presence of the mosquito. In 75 of them, infestation rates have not reached the level of disease transmission. The most critical situation was found in the capital Havana and 15 municipalities and the main cities of Pinar del Rio, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara, Bayamo and the Isle of Youth.
The first death was reported by the Café Fuerte website and the victim was described as a young woman, 35 years old.
“Although every effort was made to save her, when she arrived at the hospital, her platelets were less than 100, presenting a very complicated clinical picture” indicated one worker from the Provincial Hospital of Camaguey to the website.
At an August 8 meeting of the Camaguey Provincial Public Health Office a red alert health emergency was declared, reports the website.
“We can’t be sure that this is indeed the first casualty, since hospitals and schools have taken measures to accommodate those infected by dengue and cholera, and these are controlled by State Security to prevent information from leaking” said Camaguey resident Santos Fernandez Sanchez, according to Café Fuerte.
A cholera outbreak was reported a couple of months ago which Cuban officials first denied, later admitted but since then there has been a complete information blackout.
The Pan American Health Organization recently warned about the resurgence of dengue cases in Central America and the Caribbean during the second half of 2012. It said more than a million cases of dengue fever and 719 related deaths were recorded in the region in 2011.
Cuban authorities believe that bad press on diseases could have a negative impact on tourism which is the island’s main source of foreign currency.
Commentary: Dengue is now a World wide phenomenon, and extends its geographical boundaries from Australia to Cuba, including large swathes of the Indian subcontinent too. As per the WHO , the incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. Over 2.5 billion people – over 40% of the world’s population – are now at risk from dengue. WHO currently estimates there may be 50–100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific. South-east Asia and the Western Pacific regions are the most seriously affected.
Given the recent cholera epidemic that occurred in Cuba, and cases of Yellow Fever rising too, it is very important that travelers talk to their travel health specialist and undertake the recommended vaccinations from a travel health clinic like the TravelSafe Clinic in India, to avoid serious life threatening problems.