Central America Rains Trigger Disease Risks

by Thilaka Ravi on  October 20, 2011 at 1:54 PM Tropical Disease News   - G J E 4
After Central America's rising tolls brought on by heavy rains, raging floods and landslides, health authorities warned Wednesday of virus outbreaks and food shortages throughout the region.
Central America Rains Trigger Disease Risks
Central America Rains Trigger Disease Risks

The number of fatalities has climbed to 97 from the non-stop downpours that have continued into a 10th day, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Officials reported 36 deaths in Guatemala, and 32 in El Salvador, while thousands of hectares (acres) of crops were destroyed -- a disaster for huge numbers of residents who rely on small-scale farms to survive.

To the south, authorities in Honduras said 13 people had died, and in Nicaragua, there were 12 dead.

In Costa Rica, Red Cross officials reported four people had drowned across the country, with the victims attempting to cross swollen rivers.

With floodwaters that once raged now sitting stagnant, authorities across the region warned of potential epidemics such as dengue spread by mosquitoes, bacteria infections and influenza outbreaks as a cold front moves south.

Health officials in El Salvador reported worrying signs of respiratory diseases in people in shelters, as well as outbreaks of skin diseases and diarrhea attributed to bacteria in the floodwaters.

The UN humanitarian aid wing OCHA reported 570,000 people had been affected by the rains in 7 countries, while it relayed an ongoing international assistance call from the El Salvadoran government.

Cases of H1N1 influenza in some shelters of evacuees in Nicaragua are already "concerning health authorities," said OCHA.

The unusually strong rains have hammered the region for months.

Including neighboring countries, the rainy season death toll rises to over 150, with 29 fatalities in Colombia since September and 40 deaths since July in Mexico.

Floods and landslides have come on the heels of as much as 120 centimeters (47 inches) of rain in the past week in some areas -- three times the monthly average this season -- officials said.

The United Nations considers Central America one of the world regions most affected by climate change.

Over the past 40 years, natural disasters have killed some 50,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, according to European and Latin American estimates.

Source: AFP

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