Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cuba steps up fight against dengue mosquito


Wed 23 Aug 2006 5:03 PM ET

HAVANA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - With the help of a Russian-built biplane, Cuba has stepped up measures to check the spread of dengue, a mosquito-transmitted virus that causes a fever that can be deadly.

Public health officials called on Cubans this week to help eradicate the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries the virus and reproduces on stagnant water. Health workers were fumigating homes door-to-door and checking water tanks.

Havana residents also have awakened to the sound of a Soviet-era Antonov 2 biplane roaring low over their roof-tops as it sprayed insecticide.

Authorities have not released the number of infections by the virus, which can cause a hemorrhagic form of the fever that kills 1 in 20 of those infected. But anecdotal reports this summer indicate an increase in the number of dengue cases.

Most people who get infected by dengue develop a fever and rash, but recover in about five days.

Medical experts say dengue is an example of the reemergence of viral infectious disease in the world.

Cuba suffered an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue in 1981, the first in the Americas. That outbreak killed 158 people, most of them children, according to the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute, the country's main fighter of viral disease. Some 344,000 people caught dengue and 10,300 developed the potentially deadly hemorrhagic fever, the institute said.

An isolated outbreak in Santiago, Cuba's second largest city, resulted in 3,000 cases of dengue in 1997, the institute said. In 2005, Cuba reported 75 cases of dengue to the Pan-American Health Organization.

The World Health Organization estimates 50 million people are infected each year by dengue in tropical and subtropical regions.

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