PAHO Calls for Collective Action in Response to Record Increase in Dengue Cases in the Americas

PAHO Calls for Collective Action in Response to Record Increase in Dengue Cases in the Americas

Washington, DC, March 28, 2024 (PAHO)- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today warned about the surge in dengue cases in the Americas. As of March 26, 2024, over 3.5 million cases and more than 1,000 deaths have been reported in the region.

“This is cause for concern, as it represents three times more cases than those reported for the same period in 2023, a record year with more than 4.5 million cases reported in the region,” PAHO Director Jarbas Barbosa said during a press briefing.

While dengue is on the rise throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil (83%), Paraguay (5.3%), and Argentina (3.7%), which account for 92% of cases and 87% of deaths. This increase is attributed to the higher transmission season in the southern hemisphere, when the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector of dengue thrives due to warm and rainy weather.

However, Dr. Barbosa cautioned that “we are also seeing an uptick in cases in countries such as Barbados, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Martinique and Mexico, where transmission is usually higher in the second half of the year.”

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The PAHO Director also noted the presence of the mosquito vector and cases in new geographical areas, raising concerns that some countries may not be prepared to face an increase in transmission.

Several environmental and social factors contribute to the spread of dengue, including rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and the El Niño phenomenon. Rapid population growth and unplanned urbanization also play a crucial role: poor housing conditions and inadequate water and sanitation services create mosquito breeding sites through discarded objects that can collect water.

PAHO maintains a rigorous surveillance of dengue in the region and has issued nine epidemiological alerts in the past 12 months, providing essential guidance to Member States on disease prevention and control.

The presence of all four dengue serotypes in the region increases the risk of epidemics and severe forms of the disease. The simultaneous circulation of two or more dengue serotypes has been observed in 21 countries and territories of the Americas.

Dr. Barbosa emphasized the importance of taking prompt action to prevent and control dengue transmission and avoid deaths, noting that “despite the record increase in cases in 2023, the dengue case fatality rate in the region remained below 0.05%.” This, he noted, “is very encouraging, considering the spikes in cases we have seen since then.”

This accomplishment has been possible thanks to PAHO’s support to countries since 2010 through a comprehensive strategy to control dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. This strategy includes strengthening surveillance, early diagnosis, and timely treatment, and has contributed significantly to saving thousands of lives.

The PAHO Director called for action, urging intensified efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and protect against mosquito bites, increase preparedness in health services for early diagnosis and timely clinical management, and continuous work to educate the population about dengue symptoms and when to seek prompt medical attention.

“Facing the dengue problem is a task for all sectors of society,” Dr. Barbosa said, calling for “community engagement in order to succeed in our efforts.”

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