A team from the United States CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been in the country for a few days. These are epidemiologists from the Division of Vector Diseases who were invited by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare to support the response to the current chikungunya epidemic.
The committee of experts is made up of Dr. Susan Hills, epidemiologist from the Surveillance and Epidemiology team of the Division of Vector Diseases; Dr. Amy Beeson, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EISO) officer at CDC-Fort Collins; along with Dr. Roberto J. Freire Esteves, Principal Technical Advisor of the Regional Office for South America, who have been working with technicians from the Directorate of Health Surveillance in:
1) Review data to better understand the size and extent of the epidemic and its impact on certain risk groups, such as newborns.
2) Share lessons learned and strategies to reduce the disease that have been successful in other countries.
3) Help develop strategies to answer questions about chikungunya and prevention strategies.
The chikungunya virus first appeared in the Americas in 2013, and since that year it has caused outbreaks in many countries, including Paraguay. The CDC mentions that, although chikungunya outbreaks are being seen in several countries in the region, however, the current epidemic is the largest that has been registered in Paraguay and is, in turn, one of the largest that has ever been documented in South America.
“In Paraguay we are seeing a pattern similar to those seen in other chikungunya outbreaks,” the experts assert. Normally this disease causes fever and joint pain. Rarely, it can cause severe disease and affect the brain, heart, liver, and other parts of the body.
They report that the people most at risk of severe disease or death from chikungunya are newborns and infants, people over 60 years of age, and people with other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. They mention that it is important that these risk groups prevent mosquito bites. While they warn that pregnant women can pass the virus to children during childbirth, so it is also important that they protect themselves against mosquitoes.
At another point, the CDC mentions that the current epidemic in Paraguay has gained international importance for several reasons, one of which is the great impact on the country’s public health that has resulted in thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths. “There are important messages that can be shared from this epidemic, not only within Paraguay but also in other countries in the region. It is important to prevent mosquito bites especially for groups that are at risk of severe disease, which are newborns and infants, people who are over 60 years of age, and people who have other diseases. Pregnant people should also take precautions to prevent bites.
They emphasize that the best ways to prevent mosquito bites are through the use of barrier elements and the elimination of breeding sites. Experts from the United States advise wearing light clothing with long sleeves and pants, applying repellent and creating mosquito-free environments by installing metal mesh on doors and windows, using mosquito nets when resting or sleeping, especially in cribs and strollers. of babies, and of course, eliminate breeding sites, which is essential within the prevention strategy.
After being consulted regarding the response to the epidemic that is taking place in the national territory, the CDC confessed: “We were impressed by the great work that is being done in Paraguay.” They assert that chikungunya epidemics can be difficult to stop, instead they stress that the Ministry of Public Health is working to educate the population about the disease, especially about the importance of protecting themselves against mosquito bites to prevent infection of the virus.
As they affirm, the climate of Paraguay is ideal for mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and other arboviral diseases, mainly during the rainy seasons, where it is easy for containers to fill with water; this contributes to mosquitoes laying their eggs in these containers for the proliferation of more mosquitoes.
To prevent people from getting chikungunya, they say it’s important for communities to work together to drain or empty standing water from containers such as buckets, animal dishes, tires and garbage. “This outbreak has been evolving for months, but it is not over yet. It is important that people do not get tired of eliminating mosquito breeding sites”.
CDC epidemiologists explain that chikungunya epidemics are unpredictable and can occur as a result of a variety of factors, including environmental changes, weather, human behavior, and levels of immunity in the population.
To limit the impact of future epidemics, they argue that it is important to ensure continued breeding efforts to eliminate breeding sites, maintain strong surveillance to detect new cases, and be prepared to respond quickly with control measures.
So far in the year 2023, 104,775 chikungunya notifications have been registered, with more than 52,000 confirmed or probable cases.
Since the outbreak began in October 2022, Paraguay has seen more than 113,000 total cases.
Currently, there are 60 accumulated confirmed deaths, with a predominance of males and at the extremes of life.