This post was originally published on the Dengue Vaccine Initiative blog

While dengue outbreaks in Singapore and Thailand have recently captured headlines, the Western hemisphere has seen a steep uptick in cases compared to 2012. Central America is already on trackto soon pass the total number of cases for all of last year. The number of cases reported is alarming – and even worse -- new cases are occurring in regions that have not seen dengue before.   

This week the number of dengue cases in Costa Rica’s ongoing outbreak reportedly reached more than 27,000.  And just last month, Honduras declared a state of emergency after more than 13,000 cases and 16 deaths occurred in more than half of the country’s municipalities.

Dengue is characterized by high fever, headache, skin rash and debilitating muscle and joint pains.  In severe cases, it can lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma and death.  According to the WHO, severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries. The disease is endemic to Latin America, and major outbreaks tend to occur on a three to five year cycle. The last major regional outbreak was in 2010, when 1.6 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas alone, and 2013 looks like it might be another bad year for dengue in Central America.

In June the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), reported that, “in the first semester of 2013, outbreaks of dengue were registered in Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic. In places like Peru, cases were registered where there had previously not been locally acquired dengue cases.”  In February Brazil was reporting a steep rise in dengue cases as compared to 2012, and Nicaragua has also been battling an outbreak.

As the rainy season continues across much of the region, creating ideal breeding grounds for dengue mosquitoes, countries continue to work to raise awareness, set up vector control methods, and treat new cases. ‘‘They’re involving people from public health, police and soldiers,” said a spokeswoman for the Nicaraguan Health Ministry in a recent article. “It’s an all-out effort to fight the effects of the epidemic.”

Photo by Anderson Mancini.