Dengue fever-related deaths are skyrocketing in Colombia as temperatures around the country soar, with 22 fatalities from the deadly disease recorded in the Andean nation in the first six weeks of 2010, compared to 44 in total in 2009.
Colombia’s National Health Institute reported that cases of contagion are also on the rise. There were 2,092 reported cases of the fatal fever in the first week of January compared with 3,622 in the second week of February.
The Colombian cities of Cali and Villavicencio and the whole Tolima department have declared a state of health emergency. The Colombian government declared the situation had reached epidemic status in mid February.
Colombian authorities are also concerned that dengue-carrying mosquitos are now in present in regions of Colombia where they were not previously found.
The director of Colombia’s National Health Institute, Juan Gonzalo Lopez, said before the mosquitos were only found 800 meters above sea level, now they are altitudes of 1,800 meters.
Lopez said that if temperatures in high altitude cities continue to rise, so could the incidence of dengue-carrying mosquitos in those regions.
Mosquitoes generally reproduce at altitudes between 0 and 1,800 meters above sea level in temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees. In Colombia 780 of the 836 municipalities have conditions adequate for mosquitoes to breed, according to El Tiempo.
The incidence of dengue fever in Colombia appears to be linked to rising temperatures attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, which has been baking the countryside since mid last year. Heat waves around Colombia are producing the hot and steamy conditions necessary for mosquitoes to live and reproduce.
While prolonged drought has diminished rainfall, El Tiempo says that mosquitoes continue to breed in receptacles such as swimming pools, water tanks, vases and bottles.
Dengue fever is common in many Central American and Caribbean countries. Its symptoms include high fever, nausea, rashes, backache and headache.
Most dengue cases are not fatal, but misdiagnosis or delayed treatment can cause death as some cases may lead to severe gastrointestinal bleeding and shock.