The Venezuelan government vowed to redouble efforts to combat the mosquito-borne diseases dengue fever and chikungunya virus on Sunday. During a meeting between top political figures in Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro announced Bs 416 million (US$66 million) will be invested in a national plan to tackle the two diseases. According to Maduro, the plan will focus on providing “high-level preventive measures,” including fumigation.
Maduro said the initiative will be a “fight for the health of the homeland.”
A further Bs 400 million (US$63 million) was earmarked for improving the Barrio Adentro health system – which provides small health clinics in mostly poor neighborhoods. In a third announcement, Maduro stated the government plans to spend over Bs 4 billion (US$ 600 million) on new medical equipment nationwide.
Neither dengue nor chikungunya are generally fatal, but both pose serious health risks to the Venezuelan population.
According to official figures, over 12,000 cases of dengue have been reported in Venezuela in 2014 – compared to around 600 cases of chikungunya. Dengue can cause severe muscle and joint pain, along with fever and a headache.
Dengue levels in Venezuela reached epidemic proportions in 2001, but have waxed and waned since. Chikungunya is a newer health threat to Venezuelans, but has been spreading across the Caribbean since late 2013.
The virus has now spread to at least 31 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere and infected more than 4000 people, according to the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDCP).
Common symptoms of the virus include a fever and joint pain, sometimes accompanied by headaches, rash, swollen joints and sore muscles.
Most cases usually resolve within a week, but some people can suffer severe joint pain for years.