South America Dengue Increase Brings Vaccination Drive

05 February 2024

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

During the southern hemisphere summer, South America is experiencing a sharp increase in cases of dengue, a mosquito-borne disease common in much of Latin America.

The symptoms, or signs, of dengue are high fever, extreme tiredness, muscle pain, and internal bleeding. In Brazil, dengue is often called "breakbone fever" for the severe joint pain it causes. Sometimes, people with the disease show no symptoms. But dengue can be deadly.

Health workers spray insecticide to kill mosquitos. This is to help slow a dengue outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 24, 2024. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
Health workers spray insecticide to kill mosquitos. This is to help slow a dengue outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 24, 2024. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)

New dengue vaccine

In Brazil, officials plan to start a new dengue vaccine campaign. The program, which could begin within days, will make Brazil the first country in the world to offer dengue vaccine.

In January, Brazil also started spraying insecticide from trucks as the disease spread to earlier unaffected areas. Because of the increase in dengue cases, hospitals in Paraguay have set up health centers at night to care for the sick.

In 2023, cases of dengue have set record highs in Latin America. Health official records show Argentina with a sharp increase of 12,500 cases of dengue last December. It is a big jump compared with the same period a year ago.

The increase has led to health warnings and shortages of insect repellent.

"Repellent sold out everywhere, there were literal clouds of mosquitoes," Laura Ledesma told Reuters from Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires. She added that there were signs the situation had begun to improve.

Weather changes are affecting the spread of disease

Scientists say the spread of dengue, in South America and other areas, is worsened by rising temperatures and the El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific. Both events also add to a longer dengue season.

"Climate change has expanded the range for mosquitoes to breed, both in the Americas and globally," Thais dos Santos told Reuters. He specializes in insect-borne diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO for short.

PAHO information shows 4.2 million cases of dengue and 2,050 deaths in the Americas last year. Much of that was in the so-called "Southern Cone" of South America.

The December-February southern summer months bring hot and humid conditions for mosquitoes to breed. This helps to spread the possibly deadly disease.

Recently, people in Brasilia lined up outside medical centers set up to test for dengue. Dengue cases in the Brazilian capital have increased by as much as 646 percent in the first 20 days of January compared with last year.

Nelson Diego, 37, tested positive for dengue in the Brasilia neighborhood of Recanto das Emas where spraying has started. He said he was suffering from muscle pain and extreme tiredness from the disease, though some days were more difficult than others.

"Today is one of the better days because I can still open my eyes," he said. "I have a lot of pain in my joints and couldn't walk before."

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Lucinda Elliott in Montevideo and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia reported this story for Reuters news agency. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

borne – adj. transported or transmitted by —used in combination such as airborne

symptom – n. a change in a living thing that indicates the presence of a disease or other physical disorder, especially : one (as a headache) that can be felt or sensed only by the individual affected

insecticide – n. a chemical used to kill insects

repellent – n. serving or tending to drive away or ward off : often used in combination — insect repellent

literal – adj. following the ordinary or usual meaning of the words

breed – v. to produce (plants or animals) by sexual reproduction

globally – adv. of, relating to, or involving the entire world

humid – adj. damp, moist

positive – adj. having a test result indicating the presence especially of a condition, substance, or organism