An outbreak of dengue fever in eastern Cuba has reportedly forced authorities to turn a vocational school into a hospital, while a city racked by a cholera epidemic now also faces an increase in the mosquito that carries dengue.
Medical personnel in the eastern city of Camaguey said the Maximo Gómez vocational school for sciences is being used as a hospital, and a local university building will be turned into a treatment center if the outbreak spreads.
“We have a huge outbreak of dengue here, and if things continue to be bad — we already are at the level of epidemic — I think they may quarantine us,” one local medical worker told relatives in Miami. “Don’t worry too much, but this is bad.”
Cuba’s Granma newspaper Monday reported that Camaguey faced a “critical situation” because of the “elevated levels of infestation” from the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue. But the article did not use the word dengue and the provincial newspaper, Adelante, has made no mention at all of the issue.
Dissident journalists have reported more than 400 cases and at least one dengue death in Camaguey but officials have made few public details, apparently concerned the news could damage Cuba’s annual $2.5 billion tourism industry.
The Granma report said the increase in mosquitoes in Camaguey was due to recent rains, “human errors” and “an insufficient perception of the risks” by residents who do not clean up deposits of stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed.
Sixty percent of breeding sites detected are in private homes, while the rest have been found around makeshift garbage dumps, broken water pipes and clogged sewer systems, according to the newspaper.
Hundreds of state workers from other sectors have been mobilized to combat the mosquito with chemicals and home visits, Granma added, even though the use of inexperienced personnel may be “counter productive.”
“House by house the struggle is won,” one of the newspaper’s headlines declared.
Cuba has suffered regular rainy season outbreaks of dengue, a disease also known as breakbone fever and whose symptoms include fever, headaches and joint and muscle pains, since the 1970s.
Former ruler Fidel Castro accused the U.S. government of introducing the dengue virus into Cuba, but independent researchers have concluded the disease probably was brought back by Cubans who worked in Vietnam.
Outbreaks have been reported in Suriname, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
Another outbreak of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito was reported in the eastern province of Granma, where 263 cases of cholera have been officially confirmed since late June — the first outbreak of that disease in Cuba in about 100 years.
The provincial newspaper, La Demajagua, reported Friday that authorities were concerned with the spread of the mosquito over the past two weeks. The story used the word dengue only once, deep in the body of the report.
The government has confirmed three cholera deaths, but dissident journalists have reported up to 15 fatalities from the disease.