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PAHO Urges Readiness for Dengue Outbreaks in 2007

Experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) are working with health authorities in Paraguay to help control// an outbreak of dengue fever that has affected a// number of communities throughout the nation and has raised concerns among neighboring countries in South America.

PAHO officials warn that the entire Latin America region needs to take preventive measures to prepare for what promises to be a "difficult year" for dengue.

In mid-January, Paraguay declared an epidemiological alert as new cases of dengue began to emerge. On Jan. 20, the first two deaths of the year from dengue hemorrhagic fever were reported. By Feb. 5, a total of 2,967 cases of dengue fever had been reported as well as 18 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever, including three deaths. Health officials noted that in several of the affected areas, the number of cases so far this year already exceeds the total for 2006.

"Our top priority is treating the people who are affected to prevent more deaths," said Dr. José Luis San Martín, PAHO regional advisor on dengue.

PAHO has sent a team of experts to Paraguay to provide technical assistance in areas including medical treatment, social communication, and health services organization. Health authorities in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia have all stepped up prevention in border area, including intensified surveillance and control measures.

"Paraguay has a comprehensive strategy for preventing and controlling dengue and has the ability to respond in an integrated way to this increase in cases," said San Martín, noting that the country had responded effectively to outbreaks in 2006.

Dengue outbreaks in Latin America have followed a cyclical pattern during the past 25 years, according to San Martín. Major outbreaks tend to be separated by periods of three to five years and tend to increase in intensity over time. Data from 2006 combined with current reports and the pr
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