On Friday night, Brazil passed a grim milestone for the number of people — 600,000 people, in fact — who have died from dengue and malaria-carrying viruses since Brazil declared an “eradication” of these mosquito-borne diseases in the late 1990s.
Experts estimate that nearly 5 million people have died in the past century in countries on the front lines of the global battle against mosquitoes. Of these, Brazil is second only to the United States in the number of deaths from the diseases, which are spread via the bites of infected mosquitoes.
“The total death toll of malaria and dengue in that time period is in the range of 5 million,” Axel Hentig, a mosquito researcher at the Hôpital Vallès, told The Guardian. “If we add up the deaths from all tropical diseases, the total is around 70 million.”
The worst disease epidemic occurred in Angola in the early 1990s, when an estimated one million people died from dengue and malaria. At the height of the outbreak, 40 percent of the country was experiencing a new “super-narrative,” in which multiple diseases co-infected a single individual, making treatment and prevention difficult. The current outbreak of dengue in Angola appears to be running out of steam — less than 250 people have died so far this year.
But the picture remains grim elsewhere in Africa. War-torn Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen have each seen more than 12,000 deaths from malaria alone over the past few years. At the peak of the world’s dengue outbreak, up to 25 million people were infected every year, with approximately 2 million dying of the disease.
In the Americas, more than 2 million people died of dengue in the 19th century, with the worst outbreak in 1888-88, when more than 100,000 people died in a single year.
Brazil’s epicenter for dengue remains Acre, a poor state in the rural north of the country. The latest outbreak of the disease in Africa has also displaced migrating people to Brazil’s shores. With more than 50,000 cases confirmed in just three of Brazil’s states this year, dengue has surged back to its former level of human death in Brazil.
“There is still hope that Brazil’s dengue epidemic can be contained,” Christian Odoul, a virologist at the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz at the University of São Paulo, told The Guardian. “So far, everything has been going well but the longer the epidemic goes on, the greater the risk that it will start spreading again in the north and the northeast.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.
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