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Dengue Fever Spreading Rapidly Across Central America

A relative visits a patient receiving treatment for dengue at University School Hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Aug. 20, 2019.

Dengue fever is spreading rapidly across Central America, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Friday.

"The size of this outbreak is unprecedented across Central America," said Dr. Maria Frana Tallarico, head of health of IFRC's regional office for the Americas.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica are reporting "massive increases in dengue cases compared to previous years," the IFRC said.

More than 71,200 people in Honduras have been affected by the mosquito-borne viral disease.

Seasonal rains and high temperatures have created stagnant pools that are "perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes," according to IFRC.

What is alarming about the disease in Honduras, however, is that 65 percent of the 128 deaths thus far are children under 15 years-old.

"This is due to a lack of immunity in young people to to the deadliest of the four strains of dengue currently circulating in the region," says Tallarico.

IFRC says it is "scaling up" emergency assistance to help countries contain the disease, including teams of IFRC volunteers who are going door-to-door to raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent its spread.