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November 9, 09

NEWS / UN agency helps officials in Cape Verde tackle outbreak of dengue fever

6 November 2009 – Officials from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) are at work in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago of Cape Verde to help local authorities battle the country’s first reported epidemic of dengue fever.
Almost 6,000 suspected cases of dengue fever, a flu-like illness that is spread by mosquitoes, have been reported in four of Cape Verde’s islands – Santiago, Brava, Fogo and Maio – since the start of October, WHO reported today.

The Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, which is a partner member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), confirmed the existence of the outbreak from the first series of samples sent to the laboratory.

The Cape Verdean Government has set up a committee to spearhead its efforts to tackle the epidemic, and WHO is helping health officials and the public information technology agency maintain a rapid surveillance and reporting system by text message.

Last week officials from WHO’s regional office and from its inter-country support team, as well as staff from the Pasteur Institute, arrived in Cape Verde to help authorities.

The team will provide laboratory, entomological and epidemiological support and set up laboratory diagnostics at one hospital, and it will also initiate activities to try to control the disease’s spread.

Dengue fever outbreaks often occur when mosquitoes are able to breed in large numbers in artificial containers and improperly managed garbage, and the virus spreads through the bite of the female of the species.

Often persons infected with dengue suffer from mild flu-like symptoms, and may not realize they have the disease. Aside from joint pain, dengue victims experience rashes, nausea and headaches.

But some also suffer a potentially fatal form called dengue haemorrhagic fever, which causes internal bleeding and circulatory failure. Aspirin should be avoided in cases of dengue fever as it is known to increase the tendency to bleed. No vaccine has yet been found for any of the four strains of the virus, and none of the four confer immunity from the others.




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