“Chikungunya Epidemic Spreads Across the Americas: PAHO Warns of Increasing Cases in 2023”

2023-05-05 21:14:32

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned of an increase in chikungunya cases throughout the American continent, where more than 210,000 infections were registered in the first months of 2023.

Five American nations show figures that are vastly higher than those registered in the same period of previous years. Paraguay is going through the worst chikungunya epidemic in its history with more than 138,730 cases.

Argentina and Uruguay also reported local transmission for the first time in 2023. Bolivia recorded high levels of transmission of both chikungunya (1,150 cases) and dengue (116,224 cases), a disease transmitted by the same mosquito.

“What we see this year are changes in magnitude and timing. The epidemic is much earlier and with more cases than in recent years,” said Thais dos Santos, PAHO adviser on Surveillance and Control of Arboviral Diseases, during the development of a Web seminar.

Worldwide, the disease has been detected in more than 115 countries. However, in 2023 there was an increase in chikungunya circulation in the Americas with more than 214,000 reported cases.

Causes of the increase

The PAHO specialist pointed out that climate change is one of the factors that contribute to the spread of chikungunya, due to high temperatures or increased rainfall and the consequent humidity that provide the Aedes mosquito with the conditions to survive.

“The long periods of heat in the south of the Americas have allowed the mosquito to develop well in places where it did not before,” Dos Santos added.

Another of the factors that PAHO lists is the increasing and unplanned urbanization that may be driving the spread, since the Aedes prefer urban and warm environments, and look for points that accumulate water inside homes to reproduce.

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Chikungunya vaccines

Although there is currently no scientifically approved vaccine to immunize against the disease, seven serums are being developed worldwide to prevent it, of which three are in phase three of clinical trials.

For now, the disease control centers of several countries suggest that prevention and avoiding mosquito bites is the best protection.

In addition, PAHO is advancing in the training of thousands of doctors for a “better management of the disease,” said Dos Santos. In turn, the health entity organized conferences so that specialists with greater experience in the treatment of chikungunya, such as Brazil, help other regions with the management of pediatric cases.

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