PAHO monitoring four diseases attacking the Americas

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne. File photo/Angelo Marcelle
PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne. File photo/Angelo Marcelle

Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said on Wednesday a recent outbreak of cholera in Haiti, monkeypox, covid19 and low polio vaccination rates have the entire health system of the region on alert.

Etienne spoke at a virtual conference alongside several other PAHO directors.

She said the region is under pressure from the need to invest in the health system.

While the spread of monkeypox appears to be slowing, she said more than 2,300 new cases were reported in the region last week, most in the US, but also hundreds in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

PAHO has begun distributing monkeypox vaccines in the region, Brazil and Chile were the first countries to receive a first batch last week.

Etienne said Trinida and Tobago is among the countries have requested monkeypox vaccines, along with The Bahamas, Belize, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama and Peru.

She said PAHO is working with the producers to expedite delivery before the end of this year.

More than 45,000 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the region, 95 per cent among men and 56 per cent among HIV-positive people.

“We know how to keep track of this disease. We know who is most at risk. And we know how to keep people safe from infection,” she said.

On covid19, PAHO reported 178,000 new cases last week, with downward trends.

"We continue to depend on testing and vaccination rates. More than 70 per cent of the population is already vaccinated, but ten countries and territories are still less than 40 per cent vaccinated," Etienne said.

PAHO is concerned about the reappearance of cholera in the region. Etienne said Haiti has reported 32 new cases and 18 deaths, as well as more than 260 suspected cases, most in children between one and four. Etienne said the real figures may be much higher than those presented.

Limited access to clean water creates the perfect conditions for cholera.

Etienne said the authorities are working on setting up cholera treatment centres in the most affected areas and preventing the spread of the disease.

“We are ready to help the government with vaccines. Our region is under pressure."

She urged countries to "work quickly with the tools we have at hand to control these four health emergencies that are occurring in the Americas."

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"PAHO monitoring four diseases attacking the Americas"

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