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The Face of Dengue

Posted on by Beatriz Lopez
Beatriz Lopez
CDC’s Central America Regional office, Laboratory Advisor, Beatriz Lopez was a deployer fighting a dengue outbreak in Honduras.
Credit: Marines Lopez

By mid-July 2019, more than 28,000 cases of dengue had been reported in Honduras with a total of 178 deaths. This outbreak is the biggest recorded in recent history. The total number of deaths in a seven-month period, marks this outbreak as having the highest death rate than any other in Honduras.

It had been a couple of days since the Ministry of Health of Honduras requested assistance from our CDC Central America Regional (CAR) office, located in Guatemala, to respond to the worst recorded dengue outbreak in the country. “You are going to Honduras on Sunday,” my supervisor CDC CAR Deputy Director for Global Health Protection Loren Cadena told me. I was not sure what to expect.

When we arrived to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, on August 4th we had a week to understand what was happening, why and most importantly, how we could help. After numerous key meetings we drove two hours to the Dr. Roberto Suazo Cordova Hospital, located in the department of La Paz.

The hospital chapel had been converted into a room, with colorful bed nets hanging from its ceiling, to attend to dengue patients. Laying there was a young man, maybe 18 or 19 years old. He was feverish, sweaty, and by the expression of his face clearly uncomfortable and in pain. When our eyes met I immediately understood why I was there. Just a few steps away the Hospital Director, Dr. Gunter Torres, was telling our group “These are my people; I have to help them, thank you for coming and for helping me help them.”

Colorful bed nets
Colorful bed nets protect dengue patients in the converted hospital chapel in Honduras.
Credit: Dan Martin (CGH/DGHP/GELSB)

Our group  from CDC’s CAR office, collaborated with the Ministry of Health, CDC Dengue Branch based in Puerto Rico, as well as representatives from other CDC centers Headquarters to provide assistance. After this initial trip, two more groups were deployed to Honduras.

group photo
CDC/CGH, Dan Martin ; Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Norma Padilla; CDC Puerto Rico, Gabriela Paz-Bailey; CDC CAR, Nasim Farach and Beatriz Lopez, and PHI/CDC CAR Fellow, Tory Hicks PHI.
Credit: CDC CAR

The epidemic is not over, but we now have a clearer picture of what we can do to help and how we can make a difference. CDC provided laboratory supplies, epidemiological assistance, communications support, clinical guidance, and will continue providing support until the outbreak is under control. Only then, can we take a look back at the response, learn from it and make sure we are better prepared for the next outbreak.

Posted on by Beatriz LopezTags , ,

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