Dengue Fever Epidemic In Honduras Is Putting Health Officials In Texas On Alert

Jose Lopez 
Texas Take News

Tegucigalpa, Honduras—The country of Honduras has a total of  32 public hospitals and right now, 26 are overwhelmed by patients that health officials say are suffering from dengue fever. In fact, the outbreak is so bad that public health officials in Honduras are calling it the worst outbreak of the deadly illness in at least 50 years and that has some health authorities along the Texas/Mexico border worried. 

“We see plenty of sick people coming from down there,” says Ang Sanchez who works at a clinic that treats migrants in San Antonio. “To my knowledge we have not seen any cases of dengue fever here, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t.” 

However, while the largest concentration of dengue fever seems to be in far Western Honduras near La Paz, public health officials have declared a national emergency to fight the root cause of the illness— aedes aegypti mosquito which is common in Honduras. Officials in Honduras, who claim that their medical system is being overran by new cases, have launched fumigation protocols in both private homes and public buildings.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez brought local leaders from around the country to the capital city of Tegucigalpa on Monday to announce a special fund to combat the outbreak in the country. 

The only effective measure to halt the epidemic "is to destroy the mosquito's breeding grounds and this is something that every one of us has to do in our homes, where we work and also in every public area," said Hernandez.

Officials say that it is already critical situation in Honduras, but  with the three-month long rainy season about to begin, the breeding grounds will soon proliferate and the mosquito's numbers could soar.

According to the World Health Organization about half a million people are hospitalized every year worldwide for dengue fever. However, Honduras has already seen close to 30,000 cases resulting in 54 deaths. 

Dengue fever is seen fairly often in the southernmost tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley region. 

Doctors say that in places such as in the United States where healthcare is much advanced, treatment includes fluids and pain-relievers. Only the severe cases require hospitalization. However, public health officials in Texas are becoming increasingly concerned. The last major outbreak in Texas was in 2013 when the city of Brownsville was hit incredibly hard by the painful illness. 

Map showing commonly affected areas of Dengue Fever

“Symptoms usually begin within a week or so after being bitten,” says Ande Medina who has worked as a medical missionary in South America for the last 6 years. Now, Medina is working closely with relief and aid organizations on the Texas/Mexico border. “Fluids and pain relievers are common treatment unless it is severe and by the time they reach the United States it most likely could become fairly severe.” 

“It is something that we are going to have to be very vigilant of and prepare for,” says Medina. “And that could get fairly costly, fairly quickly.” 

Matt Briscoe contributed to this report from Corpus Christi, Texas.