Venezuelan health authorities must act

Doctor holding up stop sign

New research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases presents an update on the health crisis in Venezuela and has prompted researchers to urge regional health authorities to take action to address worsening epidemics. The study is entitled ‘Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, resurgence of vector-borne diseases and implications for spillover in the region: a review and a call for action’.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the UK worked alongside Venezuelan scientists and clinicians and a global network of health scientists, drawing on new Venezuelan public health records and the health records of bordering states (Brazil, Colombia), as well as data held by academic institutions in Venezuela, to investigate the health crisis. The researchers focused on the increase in vector-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, Zika and Chagas disease.

According to the researchers, a surge in migration, with five per cent of the Venezuelan population having emigrated since 2015, is spreading diseases in the region and beyond. The study found that malaria is a particular problem, with a 365-per-cent increase in malaria cases in Venezuela between 2000 and 2015, followed by a 68-per-cent increase in late 2017.

Lead author of the paper Dr Martin Llewellyn said: “The re-emergence of diseases such as malaria in Venezuela has set in place an epidemic of unprecedented proportions, not only in the country but across the whole region. Based on the data we have collected we would urge national, regional and global authorities to take immediate action to address these worsening epidemics and prevent their expansion beyond Venezuelan borders.”

Dr Llewellyn also said that although data is limited due to the ongoing economic and political crisis in Venezuela, using the information available the team was able to provide a comprehensive overview of the growing epidemics of major diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease, Leishmaniasis, Zika and dengue and their ongoing spillover into neighbouring countries.