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Dengue Fever Spreads to Another Cuban Province

Medical students drafted in to help with health checks in Cienfuegos.
By Alejandro Tur Valladares
  • Yellow fever mosquito, the species that spreads dengue fever. (Photo: James Gathany/Wikimedia Commons)
    Yellow fever mosquito, the species that spreads dengue fever. (Photo: James Gathany/Wikimedia Commons)

Dozens of suspected dengue fever cases have been reported in hospitals in the Cuban city of Cienfuegos, with 12 confirmed as of September 19. 

A correspondent for Jagua Press, an independent news agency in Cienfuegos, said, “On September 18, the waiting rooms of the province’s hospitals were full of patients suffering from fever, muscular pain and headaches – all symptoms of dengue fever.”

Dengue fever, transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), has only just appeared in Cienfuegos, but outbreaks were reported in other regions months ago, according to independent press reports in Cuba. In August , the health ministry was quoted as saying mosquito infestation had reached “critical” level in 23 municipalities, 15 of them in Havana province.

Cuban doctor Annabell Tur says the disease is most harmful to children and the elderly. Initial symptoms include fever, headaches and pain in the joints and muscles. If the infection is not treated in time, it can become severe and ultimately fatal.

The Cienfuegos Provincial Epidemiology Centre has launched a major campaign to fumigate homes and clean up urban areas to eradicate the yellow fever mosquito, which breeds in stagnant water.

Cuban and foreign students from the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine visited homes in parts of Cienfuegos province where a red alert has been issued, to check people for symptoms of the disease by taking their temperature and interviewing them.

A young doctor who surveyed residents in Cienfuegos city’s Juanita neighbourhood said a dozen potential cases were recorded in a nine-block radius there. The doctor, who asked not to be named, said he was aware of cases in two other areas of the city, although he did not know the numbers involved.

He said the health authorities had prepared a ward at the city’s Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Hospital to deal with serious cases, while patients who made satisfactory progress would be treated at home.

Cuba’s state-run media have remained silent about the outbreak.

Independent journalist Liosvani Alfonso Castillo suspects this reticence is because the high season for foreign tourists have arrived. “If they know there’s an epidemic, they won’t come,” he said.

Alejandro Tur Valladares is an independent journalist in Cuba. This story was first published on IWPR’s website

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