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Respiratory Infections and Dengue Surge in Venezuela as 2023 Nears its End

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BNN Correspondents
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Respiratory Infections and Dengue Surge in Venezuela as 2023 Nears its End

As the year 2023 enters its final phase, Venezuela and other regional countries are witnessing a spike in fever and respiratory ailments. In a shift from past patterns, COVID-19 isn't the chief suspect anymore. Instead, dengue and seasonal influenza, commonly known as flu, are the primary culprits. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported fluctuating levels of influenza activity in Venezuela above the epidemic threshold, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

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The Changing Face of Influenza

The influenza season in the northern hemisphere, which includes Venezuela, spans from September 2023 to March/April 2024. Data reported to international tracking platforms utilized by PAHO reveal interesting trends. In the first half of 2023, the H1N1 influenza A virus was prevalent. However, since mid-2023, there's been a noticeable increase in the circulation of influenza B Victoria. The weekly PAHO update as of November 17 indicated that influenza B Victoria was the only type detected in the country by epidemiological surveillance in the four weeks leading up to the report.

Respiratory Infections and Dengue: A Dual Threat

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Infectologists Patricia Valenzuela and Julio Castro have noted an uptick in respiratory infections during the last quarter of the year, with dengue being prevalent throughout the country. They stress that symptoms alone are insufficient to distinguish between influenza and COVID-19, hence the need for molecular testing using nasopharyngeal swabs and real-time PCR to confirm the illness.

The rise in respiratory infections is paralleled by a surge in dengue cases across the Americas in 2023. Over 4.1 million cases have been reported, breaking the record set in 2019. Venezuela itself accounted for more than 4,000 cases until late May 2023. However, no updated figures have been released since due to a lack of official health bulletins. The Ministry of Health has responded to the situation by initiating a dengue protection campaign.

The Critical Role of Early Diagnosis

Monitor Salud, along with other organizations, has reported a significant increase in dengue cases in Caracas. The Venezuelan Society of Infectology (SVI) emphasizes the crucial importance of early diagnosis of dengue. They recommend hydration and medical consultation at the onset of alarm signs, a strategy integral to combating the dual threat of respiratory infections and dengue.

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