Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mexican public health expert warns of Dengue outbreak

Guadalajara -
Mexico is due a major outbreak of Dengue Fever this year or next, a public health specialist on the staff of Mexico City's prominent Federico Gómez Childrens' Hospital said last week.

Jorge Méndez Galván, M.D., noted that with about 60,000 cases of Dengue officially diagnosed in 2013, Mexico is in fourth place worldwide among countries which report the illness' incidence. Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam are at the top of the Dengue chart.

Dr. Méndez is a surgeon educated at the National Autonomous University in the early 1970s. He later earned a Master's in Public Health, specializing in Epidemiology, and in 1990 was awarded a second Master's in Health Science from Baltimore's prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and Hygiene.

Méndez said that in the last decade Dengue cases have grown six fold in Mexico, while the illness increasingly is being diagnosed in regions where few if any cases were seen before. His comments were the subject of newspaper reports last week.

Méndez told a pharmaceutical conference dealing with the illness that many Mexicans have acquired immunity to Dengue types 1 and 2, which have long been present in this country in tropical coastal areas where temperatures average 25-30 degrees centigrade. The illness is endemic in such regions, and those who contract Dengue once may be protected from future infections of the same type, said Méndez.

But the doctor said that type 3, which began to reappear in southern states in 2011 and 2012, poses the greatest risk for Mexicans. The last outbreak of type 3 was in the late 1990s, he told conference attendees, noting that few people in this country carry antibodies to that species of Dengue.

Dr. Méndez said those most at risk were children and persons presenting with preexisting medial conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and auto-immune illnesses. Type 3 carries a significantly higher mortality rate than types 1 or 2, he said.

Dengue is now routinely being diagnosed in northern Mexican, in high sierras and dry plains where it once was rarely seen, according to epidemiologists who participated in the conference. Between 2000 and 2004, about 6,000 Mexicans were diagnosed with the illness. Between 2005 and 2009, that number soared to 35,000. Economic globalization, migratory trends and the general mobility of the world community has favored Dengue's spread, they noted. Dengue cannot be transmitted by casual contact, but a mosquito which bites an infected person can then infect others.

Dengue, sometimes known as breakbone fever, is very difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are nonspecific, often resembling those of ordinary flu. Headache, discomfort in joints and a general malaise are common reports, but as many as two thirds of infected persons remain asymptomatic as the illness runs its course. Currently there is no vaccine or cure for Dengue, and medical care for those with symptoms is entirely palliative. But the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi plans to complete patient trials in 2015 with a vaccine it hopes to develop.

Mexico has 32 states, and Jalisco is in third place for diagnosed cases of Dengue nationwide. On Feb. 24 health officials warned the public about the rising number of cases in Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta county and other areas. Dengue Fever ranking has Jalisco authorities concerned.

Between Mar. 2 and Mar. 8, state authorities reported 16 new cases, including 14 of the classic type (minimal symptoms) and two of the severe hemorrhagic type, which sometimes is fatal. Since Jan. 1 197 cases have been officially diagnosed, 145 of the classic type and 52 hemorrhagic.

In a press release Jalisco Public Health director Jorge Blackaller Ayala again emphasized, "We have to be aware of receptacles which may retain water, and thereby turn into an insect breeding ground. Either cover or get rid of such things."

U.S. Center for Disease Control report: Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever - The Emergence of a Global Health Problem

Apr. 20 - 40 years of Dengue war show few results

Jan. 4, 2014 - Dengue Fever still claims lives in Mérida, but far fewer
July 25, 2012 - Dengue Fever roars on in Yucatán and all of Mexico, rising almost 300% since 2011

Guadalajara, Aug 21, 2013. Lack of municipal storm sewers and modern drainage compounds problems for communities fighting the spread of Dengue and the tiny mosquito which carries it.

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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