This past Sunday on the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show, I had the opportunity to talk to founder of the Venezuelan Science Incubator, Alberto E. Paniz-Mondolfi, MD, PhD about the epidemics plaguing the country.

Image/Leopoldo Villegas, MD
Image/Leopoldo Villegas, MD

In a follow-up on one such epidemic is malaria. The number being floated around unofficially by the Venezuelan Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is ~430,000 cases for 2018.

However, nobody working in health in the country believes this data, says Leopoldo Villegas, MD, DTM&H, MSc, DrPH, AdvDPHM with Global Development One, who notes the number is much higher.

A consortium of five global health organizations to include ASOCIS and Global Development One are doing forensic epidemiology & rebuilding the national malaria database 2018 and the whole history from 2000-2018 .

According to Dr Villegasthey have data from several sources– MOH, several sentinel sites in different states and “the numbers are just unbelievable.”

He tells Outbreak News Today in an email, “Our latest numbers are 1,302,670 malaria cases in 2018 (as per Feb 14th, 2019) – this include new cases, recrudescences, relapses, self-medication and underreporting during 2018.”

malaria spreadTo make things more astounding is the number may even get larger. Villegas said they received more confirmation from the ground and identified another big gap in reporting cases in hotspots of malaria in Sucre State.

The malaria epidemic in Venezuela has spread to their neighbors in South America by the thousands. Brazil (4,461) and Colombia (1,684) has received the biggest brunt of the epidemic.

Venezuela’s health crisis continues to abound and infectious diseases have been rising year after year to include measlesdiphtheria and malaria.

The number of reported cases of malaria grew from 136,402 in 2015 to 240,613 in 2016 and 406,000 in 2017.

In fact, in 2015 Venezuela saw a record number of malaria cases with 136,402, the most reported in 75 years, since reliable records have been kept in the country.

The consortium says the legal criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) has been met. The Venezuelan Humanitarian Emergency is affecting the entire region.