Venezuela: An Emerging Tropical Disease and Humanitarian Emergency?

By Peter Hotez and Jennifer Herricks
At the International Congress of Parasitology (ICOPA XIII) held in Mexico City earlier this month, we learned of a very serious and dangerous tropical disease situation now unfolding in Venezuela.   The most glaring public health failure has been a sharp rise in malaria.  As also reported in Lancet last week Rodriguez-Morales and Paniz-Mondolfi found more than a doubling of the number of malaria cases in Venezuela since 2008, with almost 1,500 weekly cases reported on average this year.  Whereas the Americas overall have seen a 58 percent decrease in malaria over the last decade, Venezuela joins Guyana and Haiti as the only three countries with an increase.  However, Venezuela has a substantially higher human development index and gross national income per head than Guyana and Haiti, suggesting that factors other than extreme poverty partly account for this situation.  They include a health system in disarray (as reported recently inScience), and the unavailability of antimalarial drugs.  According to Rodriguez-Morales, who presented at ICOPA XIII, malaria is now hyperendemic in areas surrounding Venezuela’s gold mines, which has been linked to a rise in illegal mining and mismanagement.

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