Increase in dengue, cholera and other viruses in Cuba.
Poor hygiene, scarcity of drinking water and great amounts of waste dumps that currently thrive in Havana, amount to a highly explosive combination.
In Cuba, the dengue virus is extensively widespread. In a hospital in Santo Suárez, a neighborhood in Havana, the fourth floor is full of children with dengue. And throughout the island, hospitals are overwhelmed with patients suffering from different viruses.
“For a long time, dengue and other infectious diseases have not been under control. It has become a vicious cycle. The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) thrives in Cuba due to an unresolved problem: the lack of a reliable supply of drinking water 24-hours a day. Broken water pipes, containers without adequate protection, lack of sanitation in the cities –among others- are the breeding ground that has transformed dengue and other viruses into a plague. On top of that, add the tropical climate and excessive humidity,” says one epidemiologist. ” The most effective dengue deterrent is frequent fumigation and awareness on the part of the public to seek treatment at the first symptoms.”
Consuelo (name changed), a physician with 25 years experience, spoke categorically. She opened a large map of the 10 de Octubre municipality and pointed to areas marked in red. “What is now rare to find is a neighborhood in the district where no cases of dengue have been reported. I think we have lost the battle with this disease. There is no sound preventive policy. We cannot prevent viruses such as dengue and many others. We can only help promote through the media that families take preventive sanitary measures such as boiling the water and, in the event that the period of incubation of the disease were already in progress, be ready to act in conjunction within the appropriate network –beginning with the family doctor, the healthcare centers that can provide the proper assistance which will, in turn, report the cases to the higher levels. We are playing with fire. The government guarantees us the medications but in order to counter and eliminate dengue and cholera, more far-reaching measures are needed, which entails expenses in the millions of dollars.”
The last official report of dengue in Cuba dates from 2012, citing 63 cases. But last August, the Ministry of Public Health reported the existence of outbreaks of the carrier mosquito in 98 municipalities. The Pan American Health Organization reported 700 cases of cholera in Cuba in the last two years.
A respiratory tract specialist explained that the current increase of infection in the Cuban population can be blamed on climatic phenomena, new aggressive strains and viruses that are resistant to traditional antibiotics as a result of indiscriminate use.
Doctors and epidemiologists who have been consulted confirm that poor hygiene, scarcity of drinking water and great amounts of waste dumps that currently thrive in Havana, amount to a highly explosive combinatio.
“Poor hygiene means frequent skin fungus and bacteria. Health checks against rats and insects that carry diseases is not efficient. Almost all hospitals in the country are overloaded, lack equipment and often do not have state-of-the-art medications. Cuba has all the ingredients for a major epidemic to break at any time,” says a hygiene and epidemiology specialist. “A well rounded public health program and dedicated doctors is not enough to solve the problem.”
Another contributing factor is low salaries. Some of the most prestigious doctors prefer to spend two years in the jungles of Venezuela or Brazil or even in a remote hamlet of South Africa. During these assignments, the doctors can save hundreds of dollars and thus improve their dire economic conditions when they return home.
The great majority of Cuban doctors are fully devoted to their profession, although there are some who are mediocre and negligent,with no true vocation. The stagnant economic crisis which has persisted for 23 years has shaken the foundations of the health system like a category five hurricane. The Cuban regime blames the U.S. embargo for their public health blunders.
However, the loss of 58% of the drinking water due to broken pipes, poorly-maintained hospitals, professionals with depressed wages and increasing epidemics like dengue and cholera make evident that the Cuban regime must also look inward.