Paraguay reports 13,000 dengue fever cases this year

As a result of a dengue fever outbreak that infected 13,000 patients this year, Paraguay 's Deputy Health Minister Edgar Gimenez announced this week that all elective surgeries have been suspended to free up beds for dengue patients.

Gimenez also said that the public health system plans to hire 2,000 new doctors and nurses to respond to the epidemic, Business Week reports. There have been 18 deaths this year as a result of the outbreak.

The death toll is the highest from dengue in the past few years, including 2007 when 17 people died from the disease. There were 15 deaths in 2010 and  no reported dengue deaths in 2008 and 2009, according to Business Week. Only one case has been reported in neighboring Argentina this year, while infections are down 37 percent in Brazil.

There is no vaccine for dengue fever, which is also known as bonebreak fever. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and strong pain.

The Paraguay Health Ministry said that, as a result of private treatments that aren’t included in case number estimates, there may actually be more than 20,000 people currently infected with dengue fever, Business Week reports.

Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina all have active dengue fever prevention campaigns, particularly in subtropical areas where mosquitoes spread more easily. In 2010, Brazil’s dengue cases rose 90 percent and deaths nearly doubled. While exposure to a single strain of dengue can create immunity for that variant, successive infection by different strains can lead to the sometimes fatal hemorrhagic dengue.