Peru’s dengue deaths triple as climate change swells mosquito population

By Thomson Reuters Apr 11, 2024 | 8:04 PM

LIMA (Reuters) – Deaths caused by the mosquito-born dengue disease have more than tripled in Peru so far this year, according to data from the South American nation’s government, which is redoubling efforts to contain an epidemic that has hit poor areas the hardest.

The government of President Dina Boluarte this week said it had approved an “emergency decree” allowing extraordinary economic measures to bolster the plan to counter the outbreak, which experts say is exacerbated by climate change.

Mild symptoms include nausea, rashes and body pains, while a rarer severe form, more threatening for infants and pregnant women, can cause internal bleeding and is potentially fatal.

Peru’s health ministry said that as of Thursday, there were 117 registered deaths from dengue so far this year compared with 33 in the same period of 2023. Suspected cases have also more than tripled to reach some 135,000.

Health officials over recent days have carried out fumigations in poor neighborhoods across Lima, the capital, including in cemeteries where mosquitoes have been found to breed in the water that gathers in vases honoring the deceased.

Experts say the figures in Peru are alarming because it shows the ability of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries the disease, to spread to areas where dengue had not previously been detected. The highest numbers of cases were recorded in the coastal and northern parts of the country, including Lima.

“The mosquito has been adapting to climate change and is reproducing at a faster rate than in previous years,” University of Lima epidemiologist Augusto Tarazona said.

Considering respective population sizes, Tarazona said that with an incidence rate of 330.27 cases per 100,000 people, Peru was seeing both higher infection and mortality rates than in either Brazil or Argentina.

“We are in a critical situation in Latin America,” he said.

(Reporting by Reuters TV and Marco Aquino in Lima and Marion Giraldo in Mexico City; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Leslie Adler)