Honduras: MSF responds to new epidemic of dengue fever

Members of MSF's vector control team explain the measures people should take to prevent the reproduction of mosquitoes that can transmit dengue fever.
HONDURAS 2019 © Yves Magat
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NEW YORK/SAN PEDRO SULA, MARCH 12, 2019—Following a prolonged rainy season, Honduras is seeing a sharp increase in cases of dengue fever, with children particularly affected, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Tuesday. 

Dengue fever can cause life-threatening complications if left untreated and is particularly risky for children. Across the north of the country, 81 percent of the 789 people treated for severe dengue since the beginning of the year have been younger than 15 years old, and 94.5 percent were from the Cortes region. 

To help bring the epidemic under control MSF is supporting community prevention efforts in one of the most affected regions as well as pediatric care at the Mario Catarino Rivas Hospital in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country.

Since the beginning of the year, 12 people have died from dengue fever at the Mario Catarino Rivas Hospital. Forty-six percent of patients with severe dengue treated at this hospital this year were between five and 14 years old, said MSF.

“These type of cases have a high risk of suffering complications and even death if they don’t receive proper and timely attention, ” said Dr. Tania Marin, MSF’s regional medical coordinator.

Dengue can cause symptoms like high fevers, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, and joint and muscle pain. MSF is supporting the hospital’s dengue pediatric ward, which was opened in response to the epidemic, by providing pediatricians, nurses, drugs, and medical equipment for patients with severe dengue.

Since many of the cases treated come from the Choloma area of the Cortes region, MSF also started supporting the Choloma Municipality and the Honduras Ministry of Health to carry out mosquito control activities in two parts of the municipality to help contain the spread of the epidemic in this area.

Dengue is typically found in urban and semi-urban areas of tropical and subtropical regions. The disease is endemic in Honduras and epidemics occur every four to five years. Health authorities responded to dengue fever outbreaks in 2015 in Tegucigalpa—when MSF supported the response of health authorities in the University Hospital—and in 2013 in San Pedro Sula—when MSF provided support to the Mario Catarino Rivas Hospital.

In addition to responding to the current dengue fever outbreak, MSF teams in Honduras offer comprehensive care to victims of violence and sexual violence in various health facilities, as well as some family planning services, pre and postnatal consultations, delivery support, social work, and health promotion services.