South America is already facing one of the largest dengue fever epidemics on record. Health alerts have been declared in several countries since the outbreak began in earlier this year.
Senior American journalist William Blum has reported: “In 1956 and 1958, declassified documents have revealed that the US army loosed swarms of specially bred mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida to see whether disease carrying insects could be weapons in a biological war. The mosquitoes bred for the tests were of Aedes Aegypti type, the precise carrier of dengue fever as well as other diseases. In 1967, it was reported by Science magazine that at the US Government Centre in Fort Detrick, Maryland, dengue fever was amongst those diseases that are at least the object of considerable research and that appear to be among those regarded as potential biological warfare agents.”
Cuba protested time and again against the possible involvement of chemical and biological warfare agents in the destruction of its crops, outbreak of African swine and dengue fever but such is the nature of biological warfare that conclusive evidence is difficult to get.
The WHO says some 2.5 billion people, two fifths of the world's population, are now at risk from dengue and estimates that there may be 50 million cases of dengue infection worldwide every year. It is caused by Dengue virus (DENV), a mosquito-borne flavivirus.
The disease manifests as fever of sudden onset associated with headache, muscle and joint pains, and rash. Dengue hemorrhagic fever can be life-threatening.
Dr. Eddy Martinez, the director of epidemiology for Bolivia’s Ministry of Health, told the The Miami Herald that the current outbreak is “the largest epidemic in many years.”
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) there have already been more than 230,000 cases of dengue and 74 deaths throughout Latin America as of mid-spring — with severe outbreaks in the Southern Cone, Andean, and Caribbean subregions.
As of early July, Brazil has recorded a total of 744,194 cases of dengue in the first five months of 2010. Of those, 737,756 are classic dengue and 6,438 are hemorrhagic, with 321 deaths. Preliminary data from the Ministry of Health reported that the number of patients with classic dengue are an increase of 120.05 percent compared to the same period in 2009, when 335,265 cases were recorded. This percentage is five times the limit established by the World Health Organization.
Argentine Ministry of Health reported 10,594 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Argentina as of April 12, 2009. Up until recently, cases had been restricted to the northern Argentine provinces of Chaco, Salta, Catamarca, Tucuman, Corrientes and Jujuy, however more than 107 cases have now been confirmed in the capital and in Buenos Aires Province. The Health Ministry reported that all suspected and confirmed cases in Buenos Aires had been imported from the most affected provinces, but media reports said that at least five infected people had not traveled outside of the capital region.
The most dangerous strain is the dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) which causes abdominal pain, haemorrhage and circulatory collapse. DHF starts abruptly with high continuous fever and headache plus respiratory and intestinal symptoms with sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Shock occurs after 2 to 6 days with sudden collapse, cool clammy extremities, weak pulse, and blueness around the mouth (cyanosis). Pneumonia and heart inflammation may be present. The mortality is appreciable ranging from 6 to 30%.