A team from the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been in Paraguay for several days.
They are epidemiologists from the Division of Vector Diseases, invited by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare to support the response to the current chikungunya epidemic in the landlocked South American country.
The expert committee consists of the following:
- Dr. Susan Hills, an epidemiologist from the Division of Vector Diseases’ Surveillance and Epidemiology team,
- Dr. Amy Beeson, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EISO) officer at CDC-Fort Collins,
- Dr. Roberto J. Freire Esteves, senior technical advisor from the South America Regional Office, who worked with technicians from the Directorate of Health Surveillance.
The committee will:
- Review data to understand the scope and scale of the epidemic and its impact on specific at-risk groups, such as newborns.
- Share successful lessons learned and strategies for containing the disease in other countries.
- Help develop strategies to answer questions about chikungunya and prevention strategies.
The chikungunya virus first appeared in the Americas in 2013 and has since caused outbreaks in many countries, including Paraguay.
CDC points out that while chikungunya outbreaks have occurred in several countries in the region, the current epidemic is the largest ever recorded in Paraguay, making it one of the largest ever documented in South America.
“In Paraguay, we are observing a similar pattern to other chikungunya outbreaks,” the experts explain.
Usually, this disease causes fever and joint pain.
In rare cases, it can cause severe illness, affecting the brain, heart, liver, and other body parts.
The CDC points out that the current epidemic in Paraguay has gained international prominence for several reasons, including its major public health impact in neighboring Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia.
This has resulted in thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths.
Important messages from this epidemic can be spread in Paraguay and other countries in the region.
It is important to avoid mosquito bites, especially for groups at high risk of severe disease, such as newborns and young children, people over 60, and people with other conditions.
Pregnant women should also take precautions to avoid bites, as the virus can be transmitted to their children during birth.
They stress that the best way to prevent mosquito bites is to use barrier elements and eliminate breeding sites.
Experts from the United States advise:
- wearing light clothing with long sleeves and pants,
- applying repellent and creating a mosquito-free environment by placing metal screens on doors and windows,
- using mosquito nets when resting or sleeping, especially in cribs and strollers,
- eliminating breeding sites, which is essential as part of the prevention strategy.
Paraguay’s climate is ideal for mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and other arboviral diseases, especially during the rainy season, when containers quickly fill with water, which helps lay their eggs in those containers and breed even more mosquitoes.
CDC epidemiologists explain that chikungunya epidemics are unpredictable and can be triggered by various factors, including environmental changes, weather, human behavior, and the level of immunity in the population.
To limit the impact of future epidemics, he said it is important to eliminate breeding sites, maintain strict surveillance to detect new cases and be prepared to respond quickly with control measures.
So far, in 2023, 104,775 chikungunya notifications have been registered in the country of about 7.2 million people, with more than 52,000 confirmed or probable cases.
To date, more than sixty deaths have been confirmed.