Emergency Measures for Dengue Epidemic in Bolivia to be Taken on 7 March 2009

(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

Dengue has spread to epidemic proportions over the past two months in Bolivia and hospitals are full to capacity. Patients are being treated on mattresses and in hallways. In the midst of this, members of the Departmental Federation of Health Workers took advantage of the situation at the hardest hit hospitals in the city of Santa Cruz by threatening to go on strike because the government owes them back pay from 2007 and 2008. The national government met with leaders and committed to paying what is owed for 2007, but 2008 payments are still pending.

To date there have been 33,735 confirmed cases of dengue in Bolivia, of which 88 have been confirmed as hemorragic. There have been, so far, 13 deaths from dengue in Santa Cruz, 3 in Cochabamba, 1 in La Paz, 1 in Oruro, 1 in Pando and one Bolivian died in Peru.

Doctors are warning the population that they are waiting too long to receive medical attention and don't go to the hospital until they are in serious condition, at which time treating them is much more difficult.

The government has been fumigating neighborhoods for weeks. The Japanese government donated 30 hand-held fumigators two weeks ago. Between 20 January and 15 February 254 neighborhoods and 195,000 homes were fumigated. Mosquito breeding spots were destroyed in 3080 city blocks and 61,600 homes.

But this is not enough. Despite the epidemic, authorities warn that the population in general is not taking the necessary measures to help prevent mosquitoes from nesting by clearing yards and gardens of debris, used tires, vases and pots, and any other areas that collect water where mosquitoes can breed.

Therefore, the Mayor of the city of Santa Cruz has declared that on Saturday, 7 March the entire population of Santa Cruz is expected to halt all activities. He has ordered the suspension of all public and private activities, and has declared that all public transportation will be paralyzed. There will be no city buses, taxis or trufis and no businesses, stores or markets will be open.

The public in general is expected to stay at home and clean inside and outside their houses completely eliminating all possible places mosquitoes can nest.

Gary Prado, head of Civil Defense, indicated that the objective is to create awareness among the population of the need to cooperate in eliminating this dangerous vector. All inhabitants will be expected to take part in clean-up activities and make a commitment to their own health and that of others. Prado indicated that the public, to date, has been too apathetic. On this day the local government will continue to fumigate and destroy nesting areas.

Dengue is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito - and only the females bite. Male mosquitoes drink plant juices, not blood. Unlike other mosquitoes that bite during the night, this mosquito bites only during the day, usually - but not always - in the early morning and early evening hours.

If you have travel plans on this day, please be advised there will be not public transportation available.

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