The Heat Is Online

El Salvador Hit With Warming-Driven Dengue Outbreak

El Salvador Declares Dengue Fever Emergency

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, June 20, 2002 (ENS) - The government of El Salvador has declared a state of emergency and general calamity due to the increased number of dengue fever cases.

Six children have died, four of whom are confirmed to have contracted the viral disease, and two of whom are still being studied.

The Pan-American Health Organization reports that 1,301 cases have been confirmed by laboratory diagnosis. Children between the age of five and nine years old are the most affected in the departments of Cabanas, Libertad, Santa Ana and San Salvador. A yellow alert is in force in the rest of the country.

Day and night, Salvadorean Army personnel are spraying pesticides to kill the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry dengue. Brigades from schools, universities and communities are helping with the mechanical destruction of larva breeding sites.

In recent months, the Pan-American Health Organization says, the endemic dengue disease has gotten worse in El Salvador, a trend that has turned combating the disease into a national priority.

The government is coordinating suppression and education efforts with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the National Police and representatives of municipalities.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Ministry of Education has instructed the schools to support the efforts against dengue fever. Radio and television networks are transmitting spots with preventive messages.

During the past several years, El Salvador has only had to contend with cases of a less virulent form of the disease, but the current outbreak is a more severe fatal type known as hemmorrhagic dengue.

Dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever have claimed 74 lives in the Americas so far this year, the greatest number, 66, in Brazil.

A World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored course on the spread of dengue fever given last August in Havana, Cuba, focused on the rapid extension of dengue towards new geographic areas.

Global warming, unplanned urbanization, problems with water supply and sanitation, and increasted air travel were given as the conditions that are facilitating the dissemination of dengue bearing mosquitoes, the WHO experts concluded.

The urbanization process, which has left many without adequate water, sewer systems or waste management, has created new breeding grounds for the mosquito, hastening the spread of the disease.

Until an effective and affordable vaccine is available, WHO says, control and prevention of this disease will be based on the control of mosquitoes and their breeding sites.

In Asia and the Americas, Aedes aegypti breeds primarily in manufactured containers like earthenware jars, metal drums and concrete cisterns used for domestic water storage, as well as discarded plastic food containers, used automobile tires and other items that collect rainwater.

The global prevalence of dengue has exploded since 1970, according to the World Health Organization. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. Southeast Asia and the western Pacific are most seriously affected. Before 1970 only nine countries had experienced dengue hemmorrhagic fever epidemics, a number that increased more than four-fold by 1995.