14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 30 August 2019 — “The only thing we have to give you is a chair,” was the response that a dengue patient received when he arrived at the Joaquin Albarran Surgical Clinic Hospital last Wednesday. The rooms, hallways, and even the entrance area are crammed with stretchers and improvised beds due to an outbreak of the virus that is affecting Havana.
The situation, which still has not been reflected in the official media, is repeated in the majority of the hospitals of the Cuban capital. “We are overwhelmed and the problem is not only that we cannot keep up but also that when the patients see what this place is like they want to go home and they reject the admission order,” laments a nurse from the Freyre de Andrade General Hospital, popularly known as Emergencies.
Located on a central avenue of Downtown Havana, Emergencies is full of people infected by the dengue virus, which is contracted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Through a quite rainy summer and with the fumigation system almost paralyzed due to the lack of raw material and fuel, the capital is going through a health crisis.
“Only this morning we have had three deaths, among them an elderly lady who arrived in a very bad state,” adds the nurse who prefers to remain anonymous. “We all met so that those who could do it would take voluntary shifts because the staffing is insufficient for the number of sick people that we have, and also they warned us that we could not give out information to anyone about the number of cases or of the dead.”
At mid-month an International Course on dengue, zika, and other arboviruses was held in Havana at the headquarters of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine. In the event’s sessions it was reported that Cuba is implementing a national project to combat Aedes aegypti with the application of ionizing radiation.
The method, known as “the sterile insect technique” (TIE), consists of irradiating the male in the pupa stage, later freeing him into the field, and when he copulates with wild or field females, no offspring are produced. But the official information did not specify the date of the implementation of the strategy or its extent in the national territory.
“We are living through an outbreak of dengue, and the situation has been aggravated because this year there has not been a national fumigation campaign,” an official from the Ministry of Public Health connected to the also so-called antivectoral fight tells 14ymedio. “The most critical situation is in some areas of Villa Clara, like Placetas, in wide neighborhoods of Havana, and also in Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Rio,” he adds.
@MINSAPCuba,@DiazCanelB,@martinoticias,@revbuenosdias what disrespect I have just gotten to the hospital clinic at 26th and it is 10:45 because my wife is in a bad way and they tell me that she may have dengue but that there are no beds and she has to sleep on a chair … what kind of medical power.
— Alejandro M.P (@Alejand56861201) August 29, 2019
Recently the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned about the complicated dengue situation in Latin America and the Carribean. “The region is experiencing a new epidemic of dengue with a notable increase in cases,” said Marcos Espinal, PAHO’s director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health.
In the first seven months of 2019, more than two million people in the region contracted the illness, and 723 died, according to PAHO’s latest epidemiological update published August 9. However, the data about Cuba are llimited and have not been updated with the figures from the outbreak that now affects the Island.
“We don’t have mosquito nets, the patients have to bring them from home because otherwise the risk that they will infect their companions or medical personnel is great,” says a nurse from the 26th Street Clinic. “We also have problems with food because it’s not enough with so many patients so that everyone who can bring frood from home does so,” she explains.
In the children’s hospitals the scene is repeated. In the Central Havana Pediatric the number of patients admitted daily with suspected dengue is about ten. The tests to confirm the virus can take up to three weeks so many of the infected return home without knowing whether they suffer from the illness.
In a Catholic parish of El Cerro this week a priest called during the mass for a reinforcement of the area’s hygiene and for the residents to clean up the garbage dumps themselves. The word dengue was mentioned a dozen times and prayers were said for various nearby residents who are sick. “We are taking turns going to the houses of old people who live alone in order to ask how they feel,” Lopia, a devout woman from the area, tells this daily.
“The elderly are very fragile and above all those who have no family, we already lost a neighbor who contracted dengue and didn’t last at all because when we could take him to the hospital he was already very bad,” says the woman. “He died in the hallway of Emergencies because there wasn’t an empty bed in the rooms.”
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
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