Dengue, zika, and measles to rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico

Mexican health authorities are currently focused on the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic

Dengue, zika, and measles to rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico
Several diseases threaten the health of Mexicans - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 14/05/2020 19:51 Yanet Aguilar Sosa Mexico City Actualizada 17:35
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The COVID-19 health emergency has cornered Mexico’s actions at different levels. Preventive campaigns, the measures implemented by the population, but also the scientific and research projects have completely focused on the new coronavirus, however, once the pandemic is over, Health authorities will have to face other viruses that affect the population, especially dengue, zika, and measles.

The cases of dengue in Mexico have doubled their numbers compared to the same period in 2019, which was a tough year, for there were five times as many cases as in 2018. However, until the 18th week 2020, there are 2,777 cases compared to the 1,694 cases in 2019, as well as 11 deaths compared to three fatalities in the previous year.

Regarding zika, which just as dengue is a virus that spreads through mosquito bites, until May 4, there were three infections in Morelos, Quintana Roo, and Veracruz, including a case of a pregnant woman.

Recommended: Zika, the consequences of the epidemic on Mexico

Moreover, in 2020, Mexico has faced another respiratory virus besides COVID-19: measles.  On April 24, authorities said they had controlled the measles outbreak, however, there were 14 new cases as of May 8 for a total of 164. 133 were registered in Mexico City, 29 in the State of Mexico, and 2 in Campeche.

Data from the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology General Direction show that Mexico is not only fighting against coronavirus but also against other viruses. For instance, dengue has shown an increase in cases due to the rainy season that makes the mosquito population grow throughout the country.

The danger of the rainy season
“Dengue is silently strong; all news are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic but that doesn’t mean dengue is forgotten nor controlled, on the contrary, dengue is strong,” says doctor Juan Ernesto Ludert León from the Research and Advanced Studies Center (CINVESTAV).

The researcher says that dengue has natural cycles and peaks, as well as low-activity periods.

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“Actually, it's a virus that directly responds to the mosquito population density; in May, one would expect a peak of cases because the rainy season begins; mosquitos breed in clean water, hence, stagnant water from rains is where they actually breed.” he asserts.

The beginning of the rainy season usually implies a peak in the mosquito population and in dengue cases. According to Ludert, Mexico is vulnerable to this disease because it has very long coasts, from Baja California to Chiapas, and from Tamaulipas to Quintana Roo. Mexico is the second place in dengue cases in Latin America just under Brazil.

“Mexico City and the metropolitan area is the only place free from dengue due to the altitude. Another characteristic of Mexico that makes it vulnerable to dengue is that we have the four serotypes.”

Another factor is being a developing country. The researcher mentions the case of the two Laredos: Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, the same city divided by a river. The part in the U.S. has many mosquitoes and a low prevalence of dengue, while the Mexican part has more mosquitoes but more dengue cases. The difference is the way of living.

The reemergence
As of May 8, there were 164 measles cases in Mexico. Doctor Rosa María del Ángel, vice-president of the Mexican Society of Virology, asserts that this is a disease that infects children the most,

“We had stopped seeing it in Mexico in the last years because the virus that causes the disease is a paramyxovirus and we have a good vaccine against it,” she says.

The researcher says that the problem returned a few years ago due to two main factors: one of them is the lack of vaccination, that is, families choose not to vaccinate their children; the other is a shortage of vaccines, and that leaves us with an unprotected and vulnerable population.

“So, if there are measles cases, the vulnerable population will probably get infected, and if we add that measles is a respiratory disease like COVID-19 that can spread much more easily, then the risk of infection is higher. A patient infected with COVID-19 can infect from 2.5 to 5 people; in the case of measles, an infected person can infect between 12 and 15 people.”

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Vaccines and antivirals
The main objective is to eradicate all diseases. In the case of measles, there is a very effective tool: the excellent vaccine that already exists. This is not the case for dengue and zika for which there are no antivirals nor vaccines.

Ludert asserts that there are many investigations regarding these diseases in Mexico and the world, but the results are still not very effective since they are very complex diseases.

Rosa María del Ángel asserts that the measles vaccine is so good that it has been used to create vaccines for other viruses and adds that what is needed is for people to be aware of the importance of vaccination and to prevent shortages.

Recommended: COVID-19 Live Updates: Confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico


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