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  • On August 8 Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed Europe and became the region with the highest COVID-19 death toll.

    On August 8 Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed Europe and became the region with the highest COVID-19 death toll. | Photo: EFE/EPA/ Sebastiao Moreira

Published 11 August 2020
Opinion

The Pan American Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is also threatening regional plans to control infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis among others.

Latin America reported more than 100.000 COVID-19 infections every day with new outbreaks in countries where the situation had improved, warned the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne on Tuesday.

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During a virtual briefing, the WHO representative said that the region remains "under the COVID-19 grip," and half of the COVID-19 cases are reported in the U.S. while Brazil has the second-largest outbreak in the world.

Furthermore, there are worrying outbreaks in Argentina and Colombia, where the spread of the virus seemed controlled. COVID-19 cases are also increasing in Central America. The official pointed out that the Dominican Republic's cases surpass those of all other Caribbean nations together.

In this sense, the Pan American Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is also threatening regional plans to control infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis, among others.

PAHO explains that 80 percent of countries in the region have reported difficulties in delivering tuberculosis treatment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, 30 percent of people infected with HIV avoid seeking care as antiretroviral medications are in limited supply.

The PAHO's director remarked that although the region used to be "at the forefront of the elimination of infectious diseases," the progress achieved is under threat because the pandemic has interrupted mass drug campaigns that were essential to treat dengue and malaria among other infectious diseases. 

"In the first two months of 2020, the Americas reported a 139 percent increase in dengue cases when compared to the same period in 2019. However, since COVID-19 hit our region in March, reported cases of dengue fever have fallen," explained Etienne.

The PAHO warns that the interruption of immunization campaigns can unleash an increment in relatively controlled diseases. Hence, people could die without having access to preventive treatment.

The organization urged countries no to neglect these infections as COVID-19 cases spike in the region. It recalled that last year PAHO's Member States committed to a region-wide approach to eliminate over 30 infectious diseases and related conditions by 2030.

On August 8, Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed Europe and became the region with the highest COVID-19 death toll. As of today, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 390.000 people in the area.

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