Description of the disaster
Early 2019, there was a concerning increase in the number of dengue cases reported compared to other years. As of September 2019, case numbers in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador surpassed the total case numbers of the 2016 outbreak. In Costa Rica, the incidence of cases was much higher than the incidence of cases in 2018 and 2017. The Central America governments of Honduras (14 June 2019), Guatemala (29 July 2019), and Nicaragua (31 July 2019) declared an Epidemiological Alert for the outbreak.
The bite of an infected mosquito transmits dengue. It is an illness that affects infants, young children, and adults, with symptoms ranging from mild fever to incapacitating high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. The illness can evolve to severe dengue, characterized by shock, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, and/or severe organ impairment. The disease has a seasonal pattern: most cases in the southern hemisphere occur in the first half of the year and most cases in the northern hemisphere in the second half. This pattern corresponds to the warmer, rainy months. In the Americas, Aedes aegypti is the mosquito vector that is the main source of dengue transmission.
In August 2019, PAHO issued an epidemiological alert flagging that the deadliest serotype of Dengue (DEN-2) was circulating. It was of concern that the population being affected was primarily children under 15 years of age. To support the National Societies of the region, the IFRC launched on 18 September 2019 an Emergency Appeal for 2.9 million Swiss francs to assist 550,000 people in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
Since the Dengue Outbreak, the circulation of the dengue virus and other arboviruses has coincided with the active transmission of the COVID-19 virus in endemic countries and territories in the Americas. Still, thankfully the number of cases has decreased, and the proportion of severe dengue cases has lowered due to the governments' measures and support of the Red Cross Societies.
National Societies in Central America have supported community health outreach activities and used their unique access to cover gaps in service provision, including support for environmental approaches to health.