It seems that the flu outbreak in Alberta in on the wane but Dengue just keeps on trucking on in Panama. Dengue Fever is the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease. It is a severe and sometimes deadly condition, which affects over 50 million people every year, growing equally in occurrence and severity.
Dengue symptoms range from mild and flu-like to high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain. The joint pain can be so severe that Dengue has been given the name ‘breakbone fever’. Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are also common. Symptoms usually last for 2–7 days, after an incubation period of 4–10 days after the bite from an infected mosquito. I have also heard that with Dengue these ‘flu-like symptoms’ can hang on a lot longer than the flu, sometimes for a few months. In the more severe form, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF), blood vessels start to leak and cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, and gums. Without prompt treatment, the blood vessels can collapse, causing shock (dengue shock syndrome) and ultimately death.
Dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades around the world. Before 1970, only nine countries had dengue epidemics. The virus is now widespread in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific. The American, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific areas are the most affected.
The virus transmits to humans through the bites of infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. After virus incubation for 4–10 days, an infected mosquito is capable of transmitting the virus for the rest of its life. The mosquito lives in built-up areas and breeds mostly in artificial containers.
As Dengue cases continue to multiply this year; 1,012 cases up until January 26th and those are the ones that are reported. The number of people ill in Pedasi varies from three to 20. My suspicions are that it’s likely higher than 20 as I know of at least two Expats that are ill, never mind Panameños. So far this year the only reported Dengue deaths in the country are an eight year old child and a 52-year-old man. There are also four other deaths being investigated as Dengue related, one of those is likely the 27-year-old cousin of a woman who works for mi amiga in Panama City.
The Ministerio de Salud (MINSA) (Ministry of Health) is going door to door inspecting homes throughout the country and there are plans for more fumigation. Community groups will focus searching for breeding sites in and around homes. Dengue is a very difficult virus to eradicate as it spreads in cycles and a severe outbreak seems to arrive every two years in Panama. My theory is that in the ‘off’ year people get complacent about keeping their properties clean. We had no eradication drives last year, and I heard of no cases of illness in the burg. Prevention drives fall to the wayside but should be constant and not only when there is an increase in illness.
For now, we’ll continue to check for breeding sites around our area and to pick up garbage where there might be possible breeding sites. We’ll spray ourselves if we’re out in the early morning and at dusk when the mosquitos like to ‘party on’. Hopefully our neighbors in the campo will do the same.