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article imageShortages hindering Venezuela's fight against fever outbreaks

By Karen Graham     Oct 16, 2014 in Health
Caracas - Venezuela has South America's highest incidence of Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease. The country also has a high incidence of another debilitating disease, chikungunya fever, a mosquito-borne disease.
Both these diseases are running rampant in Venezuela, and things are so bad that a simple medication that fights fever, acetaminophen, is now unavailable. Patients diagnosed with Dengue or the much more painful chikungunya fever end up going from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to find relief.
Venezuela's rigidly controlled currency program is not helping businesses, including pharmacies. The governments situation has left businesses without the money to import goods, resulting in shortages of everything from toothpaste to flour, shampoo, insect repellent and medicines.
The lack of sufficient insect repellents and medicine to fight the rampaging mosquito-borne diseases is close to bringing the country to its knees. The Venezuelan government said this week it would import 29 million acetaminophen tablets to ease the shortage in these pain killers. But in a country with a 63 percent inflation rate and foreign reserves almost non-existent, one wonders how Venezuela can afford to buy anything.
According to health officials, on October 14, 2014, the total number of cases of Dengue fever in Venezuela numbered 59,729. There were 934 confirmed cases of chikungunya fever. President Nicolas Maduro, who has been troubled with a decline in popularity because of declining revenues from oil exports has accused the opposition for over-exaggerating the severity of the chikungunya outbreak. Maduro says it is a minor problem in Venezuela, compared to the 486,300 cases in the Dominican Republic.
In September, Maduro, describing chikungunya as a "new challenge for our public health system," set aside almost $1.5 billion to purchase necessary supplies. It is questionable, based on a Bloomberg report on Thursday, that Venezuela has the funds to support fighting chikungunya or Dengue fever.
According to Bloomberg, Venezuela's economy is expected to shrink an additional 3.0 percent this year, and the country owes $21 billion to domestic companies and airlines. The country had a budget deficit valued at 16.9 percent of GDP last year.
There currently is no specific treatment for Dengue or chikungunya fever. Both diseases are viral illnesses transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The two diseases have a lot in common. Symptomology, length of incubation, vectors, and the clinical course of the illness are almost the same. One good way to make a differential diagnosis of chikungunya is simple. Dengue fever plus arthritic symptoms equal chikungunya. Rest and acetaminophen are used. Aspirin cannot be taken because of the possibility of hemorrhage.
More about Venezuela, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, Acetaminophen, mosquitoborne disease
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