|Thousands have been affected by increased dengue fever. / Photo by NUTTANART KHAMLAKSANA via Shutterstock|
While the world is busy fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, other viral diseases are also erupting in other countries and are threatening their already overwhelmed healthcare systems.
Re-emergence of dengue fever
Paraguay, a country in South America, for instance, recently declared a 60-day state of emergency due to dengue fever. Thousands have been affected by increased dengue fever. The country has recorded 14,654 dengue fever cases and although most of these are not deadly, 40 people suffered from a severe hemorrhagic form of dengue fever. Some physicians in Paraguay referred to it as the “gastric dengue.” A public health official said via infectious diseases news platform Healio gastric dengue is a form of dengue that took the lives of 4 people.
The said hemorrhagic type of dengue fever attacks the vital organs of the person and cause circulatory failure, liver enlargement, the collapse of blood vessels, and leads to internal bleeding. It kills between 1% to 20% of those infected. Overall warmer weather and an increase in rain in Paraguay contributed to dengue outbreak in the country, health officials stated.
Peru also reported nearly 400 cases of dengue this year and two of these were fatal. In Brazil, there were also 53,146 people who were diagnosed with dengue fever this year, with 300,000 cases in 2006. In the Formosa province of Argentina, 13 cases of dengue fever have also been reported. The province is located north of Buenos Aires near the border of Paraguay.
Argentina reported more dengue cases than Covid-19
Overall, Argentina officially has 5.208 Covid-19 confirmed cases and a death toll of 273 but the country is now suffering from more acute disease infection with 25.000 confirmed cases.
Anibal Carrillo, MD, the opposition spokesperson of Paraguay, said that the number of dengue fever could multiply tenfold. Some cases even go unreported as many cannot afford to go to a doctor. Sometimes, they do not seek medical treatment if the dengue is of a milder type.
Colorado-based CDC division of vector-borne infectious diseases’ director Lyle Petersen, MD, said that uncontrolled urbanization produced the deterioration of drinking water, wastewater management systems, and sewer water. These have increased mosquito breeding. Petersen, who supports CDC’s mission to protect the American public from emerging and endemic bacterial and viral pathogens spread by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other vectors, added that the use of repellents containing the DEET or diethyltoluamide ingredient would be helpful but is not practical for long-term use. In tropical settings, the use of air conditioning and window screens are also not practical but these prevention methods can lessen the risk.
Large dengue outbreaks were also reported by the CDC in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Singapore.
Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The DRC is also grappling to contain an Ebola outbreak that started in 2018. According to the World Health Organization, a new series of Ebola cases were recorded in April. As of May 5, there are more than 3,500 confirmed or probable Ebola cases in the central African country.
On August 1, 2018, DRC declared its tenth outbreak of Ebola. The outbreak is centered in Ituri and North Kivu provinces. In the first eight months of the epidemic until March 2019, over 1,000 cases of Ebola were recorded in the said regions. The number doubled between April and June 2019. In the first two months of 2020, the number declined dramatically but on April 10, three days before the epidemic should be declared over in the country, a new case was recorded. This goes to show that the outbreak is not yet over in the country.
Yellow fever in Ethiopia
International news organization Quartz also reported on how healthcare workers in Ethiopia are racing to vaccinate people against yellow fever. At the end of April, the outbreak took the lives of four people in the country. YF is a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by Aedes mosquito species. The last outbreak of YF recorded in Ethiopia was in 1966 with 2,200 cases and 450 deaths. The World Health Organization assessed the risk of the country as high.
Measles in Burundi and Mexico
Burundi and Mexico are also facing outbreaks of measles. Between January 1 and April 2, 2020, 1,364 probable cases of measles were reported in Mexico and 124 of them were laboratory confirmed and 238 remain under investigation. Of the 124 confirmed cases, 105 were in Mexico City and 18 in Mexico State. One case is in Campeche State.
In Burundi, the measles outbreaks initially began in a refugee transit camp. The inhabitants there came from measles-affected provinces of DRC. In 2015, Burundi had 0.88 cases of measles per million population, according to scientific online publication Our World in Data.
Individual deaths can be avoided and transmission of infectious diseases can be interrupted if vaccination rates of countries are high enough. Our World in Data further shows that 1.18 million tuberculosis deaths in 2017 could have been prevented if there was enough or a better TB vaccine. Other deaths caused by vaccine-preventable diseases in the world in the same period are measles (95,290), whooping cough (91,804), hepatitis B (89,590), Hib meningitis (75,703), Tetanus (38,134), Meningococcal meningitis (29,967), yellow fever (4,786), and diphtheria (3,624).
Saudi Arabia continues its fight against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The World Health Organization reports that from March 1 to 31, 2020, there were 15 additional cases of MERS-CoV infection, including 5 associated deaths. These MERS-CoV cases were reported in Makkah, Riyadh, Najran, and Al Qassim.
Viral diseases are also affecting animals. South Africa and India are still fighting the highly contagious African Swine Fever. When the virus hit Asia, it killed some 10% of the total pig population of some affected countries, close to 5 million pigs lost. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has urged countries to impose effective biosecurity measures to prevent infected live pigs from crossing their borders or contaminateingthe pork products.
Another virus also emerged that could cause havoc among the turkey flock. US officials have reported a dangerous strain of avian influenza in South Carolina.
The ultimate goal in the battle against viral diseases is their eradication. Since viruses come in enormous variations in pathogenesis and epidemiology, there is no single magic bullet method to control them all together. However, certain measures can be taken by every country.