Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Dengue fever worsens in Bolivia

A boy stands on a bike as officials of the departmental health services fumigate during a campaign against Dengue fever in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Bolivian health authorities hope fumigation will help

Bolivia is facing the worst outbreak of dengue fever in its history.

The mosquito-transmitted infection has killed 18 people and infected 31,000 around the country, according to the Bolivian Health Ministry.

The infection is widespread in the tropical eastern lowlands, where the conditions allow mosquitoes to thrive.

Bolivia's healthcare services are struggling to cope and experts from Venezuela, Cuba, Paraguay and the World Health Organisation have come to help.

For the past four weeks, since the national health authorities declared an emergency, the government has allocated funds to supply the hospitals and step up fumigation, but many accuse the authorities of being too slow to take action.

However, according to health authorities, they are expecting to cut the disease's transmission chain in some regions by the end of the month.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan has announced a plan to send 7 million yen in emergency relief goods to Bolivia since the scope of the outbreak became a national emergency.

Mosquito-borne infection

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes which thrive in the high temperatures and humidity of the Bolivian lowlands.

There is no vaccine for the infection and it is associated with flu-like symptoms: severe headaches, fevers and joint pain. Those suffering from dengue fever are advised to drink plenty of fluids and rest.

On 20 February, the Pan American Health Organization reported 80 cases of the lethal dengue hemorrhagic fever in Bolivia since the beginning of the year, of which they were reporting a 22% fatality rate.

Those suffering from dengue fever have about a 1% chance of progressing to dengue hemorrhagic fever, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms for progression to dengue hemorrhagic fever include hypothermia, vomiting, severe abdominal pain and confusion.

The global average case-fatality ratio for dengue hemorrhagic fever is 5%, the CDC reports, adding that fatalities can be kept below 1% with proper medical care.

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