In what's being called the biggest dengue fever epidemic ever recorded in West Africa, the Red Cross reports some 13,000 suspected cases in Cape Verde.<!-- IMAGE -->
So far, about three thousand cases have been confirmed. The viral disease is spread by mosquitoes. Symptoms include a high fever, headache, fatigue and vomiting. Also, some are suspected of having the separate and potentially deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Anders Naucler, West and Central Africa Zone health coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross, is in the capital city of Praia.
"The situation is still serious I would say. Today (Wednesday) we have more or less 13,000 cases reported and we have 68 with hemorrhagic fever. And six have died," he says.
Naucler says the hospital in the capital is overcrowded with cases. Tents have been set up outside the hospital for triage.
Prime minister not immune
"A ministerial committee of vector (mosquito) control has been established, led by the prime minister. Unfortunately, the prime minister is also sick with dengue at the moment," he says.
Efforts to control the mosquito population are in full swing.
"They have got a lot of assistance from the WHO (World Health Organization) now, even from the Dutch. They are conducting spraying both inside and outside houses in different areas here now," he says.
But was it done before the outbreak?
"No, prior to the outbreak this was not done. No one knew this. In late September, they found a little bit of increasing number of people with virus infections. First they thought that it was H1N1 (flu)," he says.
But when the number of those infected started to rise, the illness was diagnosed as dengue fever type III.
The response to the outbreak includes clinical management and mobilization by the Red Cross and other agencies. The Red Cross also has its rapid disease surveillance reporting system in place.
"We have seen during the last days that it has been more stable with cases. But I will not say that the fear is over…. I believe of course that this dengue thing will decrease, but when, I don't want to speculate," Naucler says.
Cape Verde outbreak unusual
"This is the first outbreak of dengue in Cape Verde. And this huge outbreak also is the first that I know in West Africa. So, no one thought about dengue fever and no one in West Africa has seen such a huge epidemic from dengue," he says.
Cape Verde has a very low prevalence of malaria, which is another reason` why there was not a widespread vector control program underway.