9/29/2014

Chikunguya virus epidemic collapses Venezuela´s health system

This weekend we have seen increasing reports about an African fever (chikunguya) epidemic in Venezuela. This fever seems to be quite debilitating and has after effects, but it only kills about 2 to 3 victims per thousand (?). 

Here's a quote from the Venezuela-Europa blog:


"On 17 September 2014 the government reported 398 confirmed cases of chikungunya.

On 27 October 2014 the government admitted to about 7072 cases. Last November an opposition politician from Western Venezuela said the cases would be around 25556.

Alejandro Ríguez, epidemiologist of the Universidad Central de Venezuela and not precisely an amateur, declared on 11 December at least over one and a half million people are suffering from chikungunya in Venezuela and that figure, he said, would be extremely conservative. He based his estimates on reports from the Ministry of Health, reports that are now arriving later and patchier than ever."


This item may be of interest to those living in the USA because the first case of native (not traveler´s ) chikunguya was already reported in Florida.  

Here´s a snippet taken from the Centers for Disease Control website:

----- The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by two species of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both species are found in the southeastern United States and limited parts of the southwest; Aedes albopictus is also found further north up the East Coast, through the Mid-Atlantic States and is also found in the lower Midwest.----


Sporadic news reports in the USA have informed 
the  US Public  about this emerging epidemic
 (photo from Examiner.com)

I found conflicting data regarding mortality. As I mentioned above, my guess is the disease kills about 2 to 3 out of 1000 persons who catch it.

So what´s going on in Venezuela? Unfortunately it´s really hard to tell….

I found a news report from Venezuela stating “second case of chikunguya identified”, dated June 6, 2014. However, the disease seems to be growing at a very fast pace. Last night I saw an interview with an epidemiologist who stated he felt the epidemic may eventually cause as many as 600 thousand to 1 million victims.

The ongoing epidemic may have as  many as 100 to 120  thousand cases at this time, but the numbers are uncertain due to government censorship. At least one doctor has been arrested, accused of terrorism  for warning the government wasn´t reacting fast enough.

ABC, a Spanish newspaper, reported:

“Patients with fever and joint pain are queuing to enter the clinics and health centers in Caracas, whose emergency rooms are crowded with patients with symptoms of being infected with the virus chikunguya, a new epidemic that spreads like wildfire in Venezuela and has taken citizens by surprise.“

The President of the Industrial Chamber of Commerce, Eduardo Garmendia, was questioned by police authorities after he announced productivity had declined due to the ongoing chikungunya epidemic.

Meanwhile Douglas León Natera, the President of the Venezuela Medical Federation announced the country was suffering from a serious medicine shortage, including acetaminophen, which must be given to patients for the fever and pains caused by chikungunya.

The new Health Minister, Nancy Pérez, announced Venezuela has 1700 cases. El Nacional quotes epidemiologist and ex Minister of Health  Rafael Orihuela saying the number of cases may exceed 100 thousand.

Given Venezuela´s chronic disorder and anarchy, the lack of medicines, government censorship,  ongoing threats against medical personel who discuss the disease,  and Maduro´s sheer stupidity it´s hard to tell what´s going on.

References: 

Chikungunya Fever: An Epidemiological Review of a Re-Emerging Infectious Disease

September 18 Biohazard report on Venezuela

Chikungunya Fever: A Killer Epidemic in Ahmedabad City, India

Chinese Xinhua report

Tal Cual (anti government website) report in Spanish

ABC.es report (in Spanish)




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