Cape Verde: Red Cross responds to first ever dengue fever outbreak

Publicado: 10 noviembre 2009 0:00 CET

West African Cape Verde has been hit by a massive outbreak of Dengue fever. The first cases were registered in the end of September with a sharp increase in the beginning of November. The Ministry of Health in Cape Verde has reported 13,000 cases of Dengue. Six people have died and 68 people Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever.

“This is the first outbreak ever of dengue fever in Cape Verde and the first major dengue epidemic in the whole of West Africa”, says Anders Naucler, health coordinator for West and Central Africa at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) , currently in Praia, capital of Cap Verde.

Overcrowded hospitals

Dengue fever is a mosquito-born illness with similar symptoms to those of malaria: headache, fever, exhaustion and severe muscle pain. Dengue viruses are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes who get the disease from biting people already infected.

In the archipelago state of Cap Verde, Dengue fever has been reported in four of its nine inhabited islands. Most cases are in the main island of Santiago, around Praia where hospitals are full and intensive care unit is overcrowded with seriously ill patients.

“Since most cases have been reported in Santiago where the population density is the highest, there is a fear that if strong precautions are not taken, the the virus will expand rapidly like it did in Cuba some thirty years ago. In Cuba, the prevalence of seriously ill patients admitted to hospitals approached 1 per 100 people in 1981”, explains Anders Naucler.

More volunteers needed

Up to one hundred Cape Verde Red Cross volunteers are carrying out sensitization and environmental activities in the field and close to hospitals and health centres. There is a need for more volunteers both in the main island as well as in other islands. The IFRC should soon provide Cape Verde Red Cross with some financial support through its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support to carry out preventive and supporting activities to eradicate the epidemic. The Cape Verde Red Cross and the IFRC work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other national and international organisations.

Cape Verde has also been hit by the pandemic flu. In the beginning of the Dengue epidemic, many cases were clinically diagnosed as H1N1.