Authorities in the north of Colombia have reported a dramatic rise in cases of the dangerous Chikungunya virus in the past days.
After an initial outbreak of the virus affecting 5,000 in September, the virus is reportedly spreading again.
In the past few days, multiple cases have been reported in more than 40 municipalities in the Norte de Santander state, located on the Venezuelan border.
The sudden rise in the number of patients has driven several medical centers in the capital of the state, Cucuta, to the verge of collapse.
In the city of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, local reports revealed whole neighborhoods infected with the virus.
In order to combat further expansion of the virus, local authorities have announced measures such as fumigation campaigns and pest control, as well as improved waste water management in order to avoid the spread of mosquitos.
The National Association of Hospital Workers of Colombia (Anthoc) in the Santander state indicated that the preventive actions have to be taken as soon as possible to anticipate the proliferation of mosquitoes.
The president of Anthoc, Aristides Hernandez, told Caracol Radio: “we are not doing enough. The fault should be attributed to the sanitary authorities in municipalities which haven’t even fully committed themselves to fumigation, let alone other preventive measures.”
Hernandez expressed his deep concern with the situation, suggesting that according to the Anthoc data the number of Chikungunya cases has now reached 20,000 people of various age.
In Santa Marta around 350 people from the Luis Carlos Galan neighborhood were diagnosed with the virus. On Monday, the District Department of Health has ordered to isolate the neighborhood and sent doctors to carry out home visits. Clinics, health centers and hospitals in Santa Marta and Magdalena present alarming reports about the virus spread in different areas in this region.
The Health Institute of the Norte de Santander called on the residents and citizens of the state to be alert to any flu-like symptoms, and to constantly clean their water containers.
Chikungunya, meaning “to bend up” in reference to the joint pain the virus causes, was originally transmitted to humans in southern Tanzania in 1952.
The virus transmitted by mosquitoes and symptoms similar to that of dengue fever, such as fever, joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, nausea, lethargy and hives. Despite the symptoms, the World Health Organization claims that the virus is rarely ever fatal, although symptoms can last for years in some cases.
The virus is most often found in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, while cases in the Americas have been few and far between.