August 16, 2007

Alarming increase in dengue in 2007 in Honduras

dengue mosquito
Aedes aegypti mosquito

"The number of cases of dengue reported this year reveal that the country has lost control of this disease if compared to 2006," reported the Honduran newspaper
La Prensa.

According to the Secretary of Health, Honduras currently has 12,370 reported cases of classic dengue fever. Compared to last year at this time (3,200 cases), this is an increase of almost 300%.

The key to these statistics is 'reported.' Many people do not seek medical attention for dengue, since there really isn't any treatment or cure. Additionally, in many parts of the country, hospitals and even doctors are not available. Also, it isn't likely that every doctor reports every case of dengue. And how do they report it? By phoning it in to the government on their minutes? By mailing a report in? (Ha!) The only detailed statistics we've seen in the newspaper are from the public hospitals and health services of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Currently, 699 cases of dengue
hemorragico (DH) have been confirmed by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, compared to 48 cases as of this date last year. Officially, 6 have died from DH and 3 other deaths are awaiting determination. The key to these statistics is 'confirmed.' Rarely are the number of suspected cases of DH reported so we are left to wait until the CDC confirms the diagnosis.

Last week's official report indicated that only an insignificant increase in the incidence of dengue had occurred. With my cynical mind, I wondered if that meant that the health department just didn't update the report that week. It seems that that may have been the case.

After showing barely any increase in cases two weeks ago, the current statistics show an increase of 3,048 cases of classic dengue over the past two weeks (a 33% increase) and 202 cases of DH (a 40% increase). If that isn't heading toward an epidemic, I don't know what is. Despite these huge increases, the government still refuses to increase the level of alert from that declared more than a month and 6,000 cases ago.

Oddly, this week the health department has suddenly chosen to compare the incidence of dengue with the year 2002 instead of the prior year as they have done to date. When questioned by the press as to why compare the numbers to 2002, the Minister of Health said that it makes sense since that was the year with the highest number of cases, 19,683 as of this date. As a result, we are supposed to believe "no hay problema!"

Why the government is choosing to downplay the dengue epidemic, I don't know. Could it be that an official alert would discourage tourists? Could it be that conditions attached to some of the millions in international health aid require the government to take action if a disease gets to epidemic proportions? Whatever the reason, the government is definitely trying to downplay the situation.

El Jefe had an experience with dengue control last night. He was at an exposition at a university, along with hundreds of students and visitors. The dengue truck drove through the campus spraying poison all over, with no warning at all. The operators acted like gleeful Rambos with flame throwers. Clouds of poison blew into the open windows of the school.

El Jefe said that his eyes and nose burned and that he could taste the poison in his mouth. They literally could not see anything more than 3 feet away (1 meter) through the cloud of white smoke. As if all that wasn't bad enough, part of the exhibition was food, which was doused in chemical, and later sold to the unsuspecting public. That is Honduras' way of dengue control.

Related articles:

Honduras dengue epidemic continues, July 23, 2007

Dengue epidemic strikes Honduras, July 17, 2007

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