Bolivia is concerned that existing cases of dengue fever, which now number nearly 33,800, could develop into the deadly hemorrhagic strain, Health Minister Ramiro Tapia said Monday.
"Hemorragic dengue develops in people who have had dengue fever. At this point, there has been a growing number of dengue fever cases in the country and soon, there will be more cases of hemorragic fever than we have now," Tapia was quoted as telling La Razon newspaper.
According to Tapia, if a person suffering from dengue fever is then bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the disease, "the case will develop into the hemorragic strain," he said.
The minister noted that at least 19 people have died from hemorrhagic dengue and 88 people have been infected throughout the country so far this year.
Some 33,780 cases of dengue have been identified, of which 3,835 were confirmed, according to official figures. Of those, 70 percent were reported in the eastern region of Santa Cruz, the area most affected since the epidemic began to emerge in Bolivia in mid-January.
The government has declared a health emergency in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Cochabamba, and fumigated potential sources of infection. Neighboring Chile, Peru and Argentina have reported dengue fever cases that originated in Bolivia.
The deadly hemorrhagic variant of the disease causes violent internal bleeding and swift fluid loss, and can lead to a quick, painful death without treatment.