14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 October 2018 — In public buildings and places, health authorities in Havana are warning the population of the presence of dengue fever in numerous neighborhoods of the Cuban capital while, in hospitals, patients with symptoms of having contracted the virus crowd clinics and admitting stations.
The warnings call for a reinforcement of prevention measures against the propagation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a transmitter of diseases like dengue fever, as well as chikunguña and the zika virus. The mosquitoes have rebounded in recent weeks due to the frequent rains that have characterized this summer on the island.
“They have warned us of outbreaks of infestation in several areas,” confirms Jorge Blanco, a worker in the anti-vector campaign in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality. “The city is being fumigated with small planes and trucks that go through neighborhoods, but if the population does not get involved it is very difficult to detect where the mosquito is hiding,” he says.
As soon as the sun rises, the buzz of a plane breaks the monotony of the city, the most populated in the country, and one with many health problems that aggravate the situation. “We have too many water leaks and in the yards of the houses many objects strewn about are filled with rain and in that clean water is precisely where the Aedes aegypti female lays her eggs,” Blanco says.
Despite the posters pasted in various parts of Havana and the alarm that has spread in the health centers, the official press has been cautious when talking about the problem. So far, there are hardly any published reports on the number of cases of dengue detected or the areas most affected by the virus. Only a local media, Escambray, reported on Friday the hygienic-epidemiological alert declared in Sancti Spíritus about the high risk and the presence of isolated but serious cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever.
As a general rule, the media, all controlled by the Communist Party, avoid offering data on health problems that affect the population. A practice with which they seek to not cause alarm among Cubans and also to prevent foreign tourists from canceling their trips to the island at a time when the arrival of visitors is stagnating.
Silvia, a fictitious name for this report, is one of the patients who has been hospitalized for suspected dengue. “Small spots appeared everywhere and I began to feel very bad,” she explains to this newspaper. “They kept me one week in the Calixto García Hospital but so far they have not given me the results of the analysis.”
The tests to detect dengue may take weeks and then the patient is notified through his polyclinic or family doctor’s office about the result. “Many times the answer never arrives and the patient does not know if what he had was dengue or not,” laments Silvia.
In the same room in which she was hospitalized, Silvia had to take additional measures to protect herself. “There were many mosquitoes and I had to spend all day under the mosquito net to avoid infecting other people*,” she says. “When I was discharged, I was very happy because the place is in terrible condition and the food is very bad.”
The Government has decreed an Action Week against these insects, in line with the campaign developed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the Americas. The offensive has coincided with a time when all the conditions for the proliferation of the mosquito are present: heat, humidity and stagnant water, the National Director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap), Francisco Durán, explained to the official press.
In the airports, controls are being reinforced on travelers arriving from areas where Aedes aegypti is also a problem. “We are reviewing especially those who come from Central America and the Caribbean islands,” confirmed a doctor on Monday who gave a form to all passengers arriving at terminal 3 of the José Martí International Airport. “The problem is that no one reports if they feel bad, all the forms they give us say they do not have any symptoms,” explains the doctor.
The form should only be filled out by domestic passengers because “foreigners are followed up in the hotels where they stay,” says the doctor. “Each national who fills out this form will be required by his polyclinic or by the family doctor of his neighborhood to report if he has continued to feel good or if he shows any alarming symptoms.”
According to figures from the Ministry of Public Health in 2017, cases of dengue on the island were reduced by 68% compared to the previous year. The reports confirm that autochthonous* transmission of Zika was detected in 14 municipalities of the country, while Chikungunya patients were not registered.
In the same year, dengue was present in two municipalities and 11 healthcare areas in the provinces of Holguín and Ciego de Ávila, while Zika was located in 38 healthcare areas of Havana, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego of Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín.
*Translator’s note: Dengue is not passed directly from person to person, but a person who is in infected can be bitten by a mosquito, which then contracts the virus and can pass it on to the next person it bites, likely to be someone in close physical proximity to the already infected person.
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