The first cases of dengue fever in 2016 have been reported in the City of Buenos Aires as the virus continues to spread around Argentina.
Over 1,100 cases have been reported around the country, with the northeastern provinces of Misiones and Formosa most affected.
While the Buenos Aires Health Ministry originally reported four cases within the city – all of which were infected outside of the city, with the patients now discharged – the total was raised to seven yesterday afternoon with three new cases confirmed by Buenos Aires Health Minister Ana Maria Perez Bou.
“The entire city is at risk. The contagion can occur anywhere,” said Perez Bou, announcing a city-wide plan targeting standing freshwater and highly-vegetated zones to prevent the spread of the virus.
While National Health Minister Jorge Lemus has referred to the situation in the provinces of Formosa and Misiones as an ‘epidemic’, no national emergency has been issued so far.
Alternately, National Director of Epidemiology Jorge San Juan insists that the situation be treated as an outbreak rather than an epidemic.
The reason, San Juan explained in an interview with Radio 10, is that the virus maintains the same serotype as that of previous years. As there are no new forms of the virus, for now, he says there is “no gravity” to the situation.
The surge in reported cases is the most serious outbreak of the dengue virus in Argentina since 2009 in which nearly 8,000 people were reportedly infected with the virus, including 150 cases in the City of Buenos Aires itself.
Concern in neighbouring countries has reached significantly higher levels. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) estimate places Brazil at 1.6 million cases of the mosquito-borne virus in 2015, and in Paraguay, five of the country’s 17 departments, including the capital, have reported infections. Experts believe recent El Niño flooding resulting in greater quantities of standing freshwater to be the main cause of the problem.
A dengue vaccine, already adopted by Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, is currently under review by the National Administration of Drugs, Food, and Medical Technology (ANMAT). Despite delays, health officials estimate that the vaccine will be approved this year.
The World Health Organisation considers the dengue vaccine a major factor in the control and prevention of the virus.