As of October 15, an ongoing outbreak of malaria has infected over 650,000 people nationwide this year. The Medical Federation of Venezuela has blamed increasing cases of the disease on a shortage of medications and medical supplies throughout the county. Further spread of the outbreak is to be expected over the coming weeks.
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. In 2017, at least 406,000 cases were reported in the country - a 69 percent increase over 2016 case numbers.
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 medical attention.
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