The Chilean Ministry of Health declared a health alert in May across seven regions at risk of spreading mosquito-borne viruses. The viruses include yellow fever, dengue, and zika. More than 100 countries are at risk from dengue.
The Ministry of Health issued a health alert in Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, and the Metropolitan Region, for the presence of, or the risk of spreading, mosquitos that are potential transmitters of viruses like yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, zika, and malaria.
“We are trying to identify the high risk zones and the measures the public can take. This also coincided with summer, particularly in the Southern Cone of Argentina, where they had a dengue outbreak. But the Ministry of Health is taking the necessary measures,” Fernando Leanes, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization in Chile, told CNN Chile.
#HoyEsNoticiaCNN | Fernando Leanes por alerta de dengue en 7 regiones del país: "Los antecedentes que tenemos es que se están encontrando mosquitos que pueden transmitir dengue, zika y chikungunya en Chile. Estamos prestando cooperación para identificarlos" pic.twitter.com/EnKEXWzY11
— CNN Chile (@CNNChile) May 5, 2023
“It’s estimated that there are around 390 million infections annually, and a greater number of people who are at potential risk of infection. Currently, dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries, with the Americas having among the most cases in the world,” said Dr. María Teresa Solís, a professor with the Institute of Health Science at the University of O’Higgins.
The health alert came after a WHO warning in April that climate change is fostering more mosquito-borne viruses to spread. And cases have been growing rapidly in recent years.
Dengue, zika, and chikungunya are all carried by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are spreading to new territory as temperature increases.
“Climate change has played a key role in facilitating the spread of the vector mosquitoes,” said Dr. Raman Velayudhan, WHO’s unit head for the global program on control of neglected tropical diseases.
Velayudhan, along with Dr. Diana Rojas Alvarez, the technical lead for zika and chikungunya and co-lead of the global arbovirus initiative, warned about the prominence of dengue and chikungunya cases. They also warned that new epidemics such as zika could spread.
About half of the world’s population is at risk of dengue, with about 100 to 400 million infections each year, according to WHO.
Dengue is now endemic in more than 100 countries in regions of Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific. The Americas, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific regions are the most seriously affected, with Asia containing about 70 percent of the global disease.
There were about half a million dengue cases in 2000, Velayudhan said, and cases jumped to some 5.2 million in 2019, the worst year on record.
Chikungunya, has been reported in more than 100 countries. The virus is surging in the Americas, said Rojas Alvarezl.
While efforts are being made to control tropical diseases like dengue, WHO also urged countries to ramp up their efforts in mosquito control.
Chongyang Zhang is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s program in journalism, media and globalisation. His interest lies in the relations among the United States, Latin America and China. He is currently doing an exchange semester at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.