14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta, Havana, 10 February 2016 — Unexpected rains earlier this year have required the strengthening of anti-vector campaigns against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In several areas of the Arroyo Naranjo district, in Havana, standing water has caused an increase in cases of dengue fever, according to public health sources.
Maria Mendoza, a doctor with the Mantilla Polyclinic, said that in recent weeks more than twenty people with fevers have been reported in the area, and others have gone to the doctor with symptoms characteristic of dengue fever. “The situation is quite serious,” the specialist added.
A doctor at Julio Trigo Hospital details that rooms for people with dengue fever remain full because “this municipality has several unhealthy neighborhoods and slums, many streets are unpaved and the sewers are not working.” The doctor fears that under such conditions “zika will come to the country and we’ll have a situation favorable to its propagation.”
The problem is worsened by the shortage of repellents and mosquito nets in the stores in the city. A search conducted by this newspaper in shops and markets in Havana, including pharmacies that sell products both in local currency and in convertible pesos, confirms the scarce supply of these products.
Only in the centrally located Carlos III market, in Central Havana, was it possible to find a bottle with less than 3.5 ounces of repellent, and the price was 1.65 convertible pesos (CUC), equivalent to two days’ wages. Mosquito nets, meanwhile, are only for sale in departments for newborns, at small sizes and prices that exceed 15 CUC (more than $15 US).
Cases of patients who are not reported to any health center are also increasing. Many prefer to endure the illness at home rather than in a hospital, where hygienic and supply problems abound. In the case of Lucia, who had “fever, headache, red spots all over my skin,” she declined to be admitted. “”I didn’t even tell my family doctor,” she said.
TV ads warn that when a person is infected with dengue and is bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito it acts as a bridge to transmit the virus to others. If the patient does not remain isolated under a net, the chances of infecting family members and neighbors increases significantly.
As a part of urgent measures to eradicate the infestation in the most affected areas of Arroyo Naranjo, family physicians have developed plans for educational talks in the neighborhoods with the highest rate of infestation. In Las Manzanas, with an increased number of identified cases, they have also increased fumigation and inspections for breeding sites and larvae.
Jorge, a vector campaign worker in the Fraternidad neighborhood, explains that “with these rains, the mosquito lays her eggs anywhere water collects and this is how the epidemic grows.” He also warns, “Another danger is the accumulated garbage on street corners and makeshift dumps that trigger outbreaks.”
For many residents in the district, the greatest danger in the area is no longer badly lit streets or the frequent robberies, rather it takes the form of a small mosquito that spreads the dreaded “Breakbone Fever.”