Paraguay official says dengue epidemic is more severe than thought

Esperanza Martinez, Paraguay’s minister of public health, acknowledged on Tuesday that the country's current dengue epidemic is much more severe than the 2007 outbreak, which had been previously been considered the worst in recent history.

Martinez said that the combination of a new dengue virus - serotype 2 - and a lack of coordinated effort by regional town councils has contributed to the epidemic. There have thus far been 23 reported deaths, compared with 17 deaths four years ago, Merco Press reports.

“Undoubtedly, it is the worst all,” Martinez said, according to Merco Press. “We have structural problems that can’t be addressed and improved. I don’t know if I need to point a gun at them. But the president (Lugo) called them last January 8 and demanded they present and make effective an environmental plan to anticipate the disease when the rainy season begins.”

The lack of a coordinated effort and the slow reaction time of the chief councilors ensured that the government was unable to implement prevention plans and must now deal with contingencies. There are now over 7,000 confirmed cases of dengue in the country with another 23,000 suspected cases.

Dengue is typically transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. It exists in four different types. Dengue fever has been referred to as break-bone fever in the tropical climates it circulates in. Symptoms include headache, fever, skin rash, muscle and joint pains and they can include life-threatening complications such as dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. There is currently no available vaccine for dengue. Treatment of acute dengue is accomplished with supportive methods like re-hydration.