Red Cross takes action in the fight against Dengue and Chikungunya amid alarming number of cases in El Salvador

Published: 4 August 2014 18:39 CET

By: Salvadorean Red Cross Public Relations Department

Since 18 of July, authorities in El Salvador declared a yellow alert in the municipalities of Ayutuxtepeque, Mejicanos, Apopa, Nejapa, Cuscatancingo and San Salvador, San Idelfonso in the department of San Vicente, as well as some municipalities of the department of Usulutan, due to the identification of suspected cases of Chikungunya.

Following the alert the Salvadorean Red Cross (SRC) has been carrying out fumigation campaigns, awareness raising and cleaning in homes to prevent the increase in the amount of cases. However, in spite of these efforts, cases remain present.

In support of the SRC the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies released 167,572 Swiss francs from its disaster relief emergency funds, meant to support the response activities as well as prevention and mitigation.

We had a chance to speak with Dr. Carolina Rodriguez National Coordinator of the Dengue Chikungunya Project 2014, who shed some light on some of the activities being carried out by the SRC.

SRC: What is the goal of the campaign to fight Dengue and Chikungunya?

Dr. R: The campaign focuses on the municipalities that have an orange alert (Sonsonate, San Salvador and Cuscatlan) during the first phase which seeks to provide assistance to more than 25,000 people, throughout three months of prevention activities carried out by our volunteers.

SRC: What is Chikungunya?

Dr. R: It’s a virus that is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. The symptoms usually appear a week after and they are; high fevers, headaches, pain in the muscles and joints which focuses in the arms legs and the back. Chikunguya is transmitted by the same mosquito as Dengue and they are very similar, the difference is in the pain in the joints. There is no treatment for either Dengue or Chikungunya. The majority of patients are able to recover completely, but in some cases the pain in joints can last a long time, up to one or two years.

SRC: To date how many cases of Chikungunya have been registered in the country?

Dra. R: To date there are 1,608 probable cases registered in our country. The groups that are most affected by the virus are people between the ages of 10-19 years old where there are currently some 426 possible cases. However we are worried about the cases in the elderly because they are highly vulnerable to these types of viruses, given that they have other diseases that debilitate the body’s ability to respond to Chikungunya.

SRC: What are the recommendations to address possible cases of the virus?

Dra R: People should not auto medicate, and should go to the nearest health centre if they suspect they may have the virus. Its important to get plenty of rest, hydrate and also prevent further transmission to other people by using repellents, mosquito screens on windows and doors, and mosquito nets. Likewise it is important to clean our homes to eliminate possible hatcheries of the mosquitoes that transmit both Chikungunya and Dengue.

SRC: What types of actions can be carried out through the support of the funds made available by the IFRC?

Dra R: Among the actions planned for the campaign, we plan to provide information to the populations about the Chikungunya virus, with the aim of raising awareness of the virus that is transmitted the same way as Dengue, that is to say through the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, both cause a great deal of pain, and are identifiable 3 to 7  days after the mosquito bites. In the case of Dengue there can be a duration of 2 to 12 days, the only difference is that the symptoms in the case of Chikungunya can last a long time.

Awareness raising activities are carried out with the general public in the communities and in strategic groups like schools and prisons. We will also work in vector control through fumigation and training community volunteers so that they can take part in the prevention and scale up the vigilance of possible cases. Our interventions are not only about raising awareness in the affected communities but also to empower them to change minds and save lives.

The Salvadorean Red Cross continues to work together with the local and national authorities in the different communities affected by the spread of the mosquitoes which transmit these viruses and endanger the lives of the most vulnerable.  It is therefore the paramount need to reinforce the capacity to respond to cases of these diseases and take advantage of the integrated services in the country.

The Salvadorean Red Cross calls of the National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to join forces to reduce the surge of diseases like these, that do not have a treatment, and that only can be prevented through coordination for awareness raising and public education, as well as the implementation of fumigation and elimination of hatcheries. Additionally promoting personal protection through the use of repellents and mosquito nets.