Venezuela is experiencing significant case reports this year for chikungunya, dengue and malaria, three mosquito-borne illnesses common in tropical and subtropical environments. As of reports this week, the country has seen 398 chikungunya cases, 45,745 dengue cases and 55,970 cases of malaria.
The country has also reported close to a dozen deaths in several cities from an illness of unknown origin, thought to possibly be an atypical presentation of chikungunya or an aggressive strain of dengue.
“Among the 1,200 suspected cases of chikungunya (virus) in Venezuela, 398 people tested positive and confirmed by laboratories, (and) similarly we have confirmed 45,745 cases of dengue (virus) in the country,” said Venezuelan Health Minister Nancy Perez during a gathering at the ministry’s headquarters in Caracas.
Outbreak News Today reports the Health Ministry also indicated 1,668 new cases of malaria were detected in Venezuela from August 24 to August 30. The total number of cases so far this year is 55,970, and increase of 2.35 percent compared to the 54,680 reports recorded last year.
Venezuela’s battle with mosquito-borne diseases is nothing new, but the Center for Science Education suggests countries in subtropic and tropic regions will only see an increase in these types of illness as the climate changes.
“The effect of future climate change on the rates of dengue transmission is complex,” explains the Center. “On the one hand, areas with higher rainfall and higher temperatures can expect higher rates of dengue transmission because the mosquitoes thrive in warm, moist environments. However, while it seems somewhat counterintuitive, rates of dengue transmission may actually increase in regions that are projected to become more prone to drought. This is because the Aedes mosquitoes which carry dengue breed in containers used for household water storage, and because the need for such water storage containers will increase in areas projected to be more prone to drought as climate continues to change. Thus there may likely be more habitats for dengue vectors in areas projected to become drier.”
Similar climate-related changes will alter the number of malaria and chikungunya cases; malaria, for example, is expected to spread into regions where it has not previously been seen before. It may also leave areas where it has been endemic, as decreased rainfall will cause malaria-carrying mosquitoes to die off.
“Each year there are between 350 million and 500 million cases of malaria worldwide. Over one million of those people die from the disease. Most of the people who die from malaria are children in Sub-Saharan Africa,” states the Center. “…in Sub-Saharan Africa, where climate change is expected to decrease rainfall, the number of mosquitoes may decrease and so malaria transmission rates would also fall.”
Venezuela isn’t the only country experiencing issues this year with mosquito-born illnesses, and other nations are taking active approaches to try to decrease the mosquito population. Brazil may soon be implementing a control project based on the release of genetically modified mosquitoes designed to cause sterility in the natural population.
Meanwhile, residents are encouraged to follow the best mosquito prevention methods they can, avoiding storage of water in open containers and using mosquito netting when possible.