Is Brazil facing a prolonged dengue epidemic?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Dominican Republic has treated close to 2,200 people for the strain since it was first identified in 2016

What’s behind the spike in the number of people getting the US drug “covid-19” in the Dominican Republic?

Covid-19 is a new variant of the mosquito-borne viral disease dengue, first detected in Haiti in September 2016.

It remains relatively rare in the Americas compared to, say, Angola.

But the crisis has been a PR problem for the Dominican Republic, with President Danilo Medina placing some blame on drugs made in Haiti and exported to Santo Domingo.

So does the outbreak seem likely to continue?

What are the symptoms?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Symptoms of dengue virus in the region tend to be severe

The typical symptoms of dengue infection in the Americas are a headache, high fever, muscle aches, chills and fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But in recent years, scientists have suggested cases are getting worse, since Zika, for example, can be passed on to humans after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus, and which are found in the tropics.

Other international organisations have noted that a higher proportion of illnesses in several nations of the Western Hemisphere can be attributed to dengue.

On 20 February, the WHO warned “all aspects of risk management, including food and water hygiene, personal and household hygiene, risk transfer and intelligence are critical” for cases of dengue.

It also urged people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and of course to wash their hands.

Could Cuba’s authorities be to blame?

Image copyright AFP Image caption More than 100% of Cubans have been exposed to the Dengue in the past 18 months

There has been some speculation that the government in Cuba, where dengue is endemic but not prevalent, could be responsible.

The Cubans reported that many Cubans fell ill with the virus after travelling to the DR. But because many of the tourists left the country after their sickness, there is no record of whether any were infected at home.

There have also been allegations that the Cubans acquired Dengue while on cruise ships with Caribbean destinations on the itinerary, or while they were on vacation in Puerto Rico, in recent months.

Will more people get infected?

In the DR, the outbreak has already killed more than 200 people, and experts said it was more likely to continue because of climate change.

This month alone has seen close to 2,200 people fall ill, mostly in the southern regions of the country, according to the WHO.

It said a bigger risk was more people who were already infected would stay that way, and more cases would emerge from those who had previously contracted the virus.

Can dengue affect me?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption It is usually transmitted by the Aedes mosquito

Dengue is rare, and only causes symptoms of flu-like illness in about 20% of cases. But the size of the outbreak has taken people aback.

The Americas has one of the lowest rates of dengue worldwide, and anyone with existing symptoms is advised to remain on bed rest, according to the WHO.

It is usually transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which can also be found in the UK and Europe.

But it is highly infectious – a single mosquito bite can send you to hospital.

Experts have advised people in the UK to expect increased sightings of yellow fever-like illness, or “dengue haemorrhagic fever”, during the next few months.

Around 20 cases have been reported in Britain, with the first in 2013. But the UK government says as the disease doesn’t carry any virus on its own, there’s no cause for alarm.

Additional reporting by Martin Prince.

This article was amended on 22 February 2020 to include the comment from the WHO.

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