Officials Arrested For Stealing Chemical Used To Fight Dengue Fever

Un carro de fumigación en la ciudad de Holguín. (14ymedio/Fernando Donate)
A fumigation truck in the city of Holguin. (14ymedio / Fernando Donate)

Several directors and heads of health districts in Holguin have been arrested for their links with the illegal sale of permethrin, a chemical used to fumigate against the  Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is responsible for the dengue fever epidemic that affects this eastern province. A government source told  14ymedio that the officials must answer for the crime of “spreading the epidemic,” because the “diversion of resources” complicates the fight against the vector.

Permethrin has reached the price of 1,500 pesos per liter in the informal market, where it is sold to fumigate certain crops. Lacking permethrin, the authorities resort to petroleum in a gaseous state, which is less effective, to fumigate the mosquito foci.

After a year of an epidemic scourge of both dengue fever and cholera, Holguin continues to experience a complex healthcare situation, despite having spent 26 million pesos on local sanitation. Despite the fumigation campaigns and other hygiene measures, the number of patients suffering from dengue fever and cholera remains high, as does the prevalence of the  Aedes aegypti mosquito, as corroborated by Elizabeth Segura Sierra, the provincial director of health, on a local radio broadcast.

This official also reported on the same broadcast that the presence of cholera has recently been confirmed in the towns of Rafael Freyre, Cueto, Cacocum, Gibara and Holguin, with the greatest number of reported cases in the latter. Segura Sierra insisted that there is still a risk of returning to the situation faced in August, when a health emergency led to a suspension of the Carnival celebration, the closure of dining establishments and a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in bulk. These measures caused great economic damage to both the State and the private sector. “Let no one think that these outbreaks have been eliminated, the cholera virus and dengue fever still exist in the area,” the official said.

Operators engaged in fumigation are working more than eight hours a day, for low wages and in bad conditions. This has generated a shortage of personnel, forcing the mobilization of 650 officials to do this work in August and September. Of these, 450 came from the healthcare sector and 200 from municipal bodies.

The province is in a true state of alarm as is evidenced by the many emergency measures being taken. Significant resources have been mobilized from other institutions which find themselves obliged to halt their normal work and take on the economic loses stemming from the lack of productive support.

At the most critical moment of the outbreak 130 vehicles and five buses were used solely to transport patients to the two hospitals equipped to deal with the crisis at Celia Sanchez Manduley University in Holguin.

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