Dengue Fever Spreads Across Bolivia

A dengue fever epidemic is spreading over much of Bolivia, causing a national health emergency. At least three people have died in what health officials are calling the worst outbreak of the disease in 22 years. Medical resources are so scarce that doctors are forced to turn away patients who aren’t yet in critical condition.

Some Bolivians insist the government has been neglecting these serious health concerns to focus on a recently passed referendum to the Bolivian constitution that empowers indigenous people.

Dr. Carlos Martinez of the Santa Cruz pediatric hospital tells Al Jazeera, "The politicians have been too occupied with the constitutional referendum and have forgotten that we have a very real and serious epidemic."

Dengue fever is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, which likes to live among humans. Symptoms of dengue can include severe headache, muscle and joint pain, fever and a rash. The sickness can last six to seven days and is particularly dangerous for children. A variant of the disease is called dengue hemorrhagic fever, which causes hemorrhaging in patients. Dr Martinez says half of the patients at his hospital have hemorrhagic dengue. "They don't die from the hemorrhaging itself, but from the loss of liquids in the body. The 10 per cent mortality rate is usually the result of not getting medical attention in time."