SEATTLE, Washington — The people of Latin America currently face two major epidemics at once. Dengue and COVID-19 in Latin America have killed thousands and continue to impact citizens. Although dengue is not extremely fatal, the combination of dengue and a coronavirus diagnosis can lead to serious complications. The clash of these two epidemics have created hardships for each country and brought governmental attention to healthcare and climate change.
Dengue in Latin America
Dengue, or breakbone fever, only affected nine countries in 1970, but currently, more than 100 countries are affected by this tropical disease. Dengue is a vector-borne disease, similar to malaria or yellow fever, where the saliva from a female mosquito transmits the disease to a human. An individual diagnosed with dengue experiences high fever, joint pain, severe headaches and vomiting.
In 2019, more than 1,300 Latin Americans died from dengue disease, with more than 3.1 million confirmed cases, which was a record high. Major outbreaks of dengue in Latin America have increased and expanded into new mountainous regions. Scientists believe climate change is a major factor since non-tropical areas are now being affected. Climate change has major consequences from increased rainfall and flooding that lead to changes in mosquitoes’ reproduction habits. The ecosystem has gradually declined in high altitude regions due to climate change, which led to an increase in dengue outbreaks.
Along with the current impact of COVID-19 in Latin America, severe dengue outbreaks are simultaneously impacting Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Bolivia has witnessed a severe dengue outbreak, where there were 7,000 new cases in March 2020 alone. The Andes Mountain range is located within Bolivia, where three years ago, mosquitos were unheard of due to a very high altitude. The epidemic increased due to changing weather conditions, in areas where there has been a major increase in heavy rainfall. The local government in Bolivia declared the dengue epidemic a national emergency.
COVID-19 in Latin America
During the very beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Latin America was one of the countries untouched by COVID-19. In May 2020, Latin America was considered the new epicenter of the outbreak, with more than 920,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 50,000 deaths across the 33 countries of Latin America.
Latin America’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was in February 2020. The first death was recorded in March 2020 but the region maintained control for months. The numbers began to surge in May and many countries were without proper testing kits, protective wear and basic health supplies to help stop the spread.
Response to Two Epidemics: Dengue and COVID-19
In 2019, the World Health Organization identified dengue as one of the top 10 global health threats, where more than 40% of the global population is at risk. The Red Cross is working with countries affected by the dengue outbreak, in order to help local communities manage current and potential future outbreaks. The Red Cross, along with local health organizations, work to identify the source of the outbreak and the hygiene measures that should be implemented in order to reduce spread.
SC Johnson donated 125,000 insect repellant and insecticide products to families in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The company aims to help individuals protect themselves from dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. SC Johnson also helped to educate at-risk families on how to use mosquito repellant. Since the beginning of the program initiative in 2016, SC Johnson has helped more than 900,000 families in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The World Bank is deploying around $4 billion to Latin American and Caribbean countries in response to COVID-19. These funds will help increase health systems and disease observation, reduce COVID-19-related deaths and lower the pandemic’s economic impact. In Bolivia, the project “Emergency Safety Nets for the Covid-19 Crisis” aims to decrease the economic consequences of the overpopulated health care system due to COVID-19.
Dengue and COVID-19 in Latin America have impacted many lives. The clash of these two epidemics creates greater hardships for countries in Latin America. With the help of organizations, it is hopeful that the effects of both dengue and COVID-19 can be successfully combatted.
– Ann Ciancia