The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that malaria is on the rise in Venezuela. More than 406,000 cases were reported in 2017 - a 69 percent increase from the year before, representing the largest increase worldwide. The UN has warned that Venezuelan migrants fleeing the economic and social crisis present in the country are carrying malaria into Brazil and other parts of Latin America.
As of mid-April, over 175,000 cases have been detected in the country since the beginning of 2018. Officials have projected that over 400,000 individuals will contract malaria over the course of the year.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, nausea, and body aches; early symptoms usually appear between seven and 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine but preventive medications are available. Generally speaking, the risk of contracting malaria is highest at night (between dusk and dawn), when the mosquitoes that transmit the disease are most active.
Malaria was officially eradicated in the country some 50 years ago and cases were relatively rare prior to the current outbreak, ongoing since 2015. The return of the disease has been attributed in large part to a surge in illegal mining practices (triggered by the ongoing economic crisis), which leave open pits where stagnant water collects, creating fertile mosquito breeding grounds. Diphtheria and measles have also made a resurgence in the country. These outbreaks come amid a multi-front crisis in Venezuela, with major shortages of medications and medical supplies (as well as food and other necessities), among various other issues. On average, more than eight out of ten medications are difficult or impossible to find in the country, including artemisinin derivatives, used to treat P. falciparum cases.
Various other mosquito-borne diseases are also present in Venezuela, including dengue fever, the Zika virus, and chikungunya.
To minimize the risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases, use insect repellent, wear covering clothing, and consider sleeping under mosquito netting if in high-risk areas. If you develop a high fever during or after travel in areas affected by malaria, seek immediate medical attention and ask for a rapid detection test (RDT).
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