Central America to be declared free of cholera, PAHO director says

In her first official trip as director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses Periago announced in El Salvador that Central America will be declared free of cholera this year.

Washington, March 12, 2003 -- In her first official trip as director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses Periago announced in El Salvador that Central America will be declared free of cholera this year.

In an interview after participating in the inauguration of the Center of Research and Development in Health (CENSALUD), she said, "We have won the battle against cholera. We fulfilled the mission and we have to celebrate, because everyone deserves the credit."

From 1991, when the pandemic of cholera began in the Americas, through the year 2000, 1,275,230 cases of cholera were reported throughout the Region, with 16.5 percent of these in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, according to the PAHO report, "Health in the Americas." Although the number of cases has been declining, cholera continued to be a sanitary problem, especially in remote rural populations, and in all those without basic sanitation infrastructure and with difficult access to health centers.

Roses also said PAHO will work intensely to eliminate the agent that transmits Chagas' Disease, which affects more than 10 million people in Central America and South America. "We will launch a regional initiative to eliminate to one of the transmitters of this silent killer, with the support of the Japanese government," she said. Transmission of Chagas'Disease, a blood parasite carried by the "Kissing bug," has already been interrupted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

Concerning dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that has caused large epidemics in the Americas, with more than a million cases and 225 deaths reported in 2002, the PAHO director said the countries must focus on prevention, education, community participation, and environmental management. To meet targets in the fight against dengue, infestation rates should be reduced to one percent or less, she said. Dengue can be reduced through effective household and community control of mosquito breeding sites such as water containers.

In her visit to El Salvador, Roses spoke on the health challenges in the region and held meetings with the Minister of Health of El Salvador, with the PAHO Representative in that country and with numerous other organizations. At the inauguration of the research center on the campus of the University of San Salvador, she spoke on "The challenges of Health in the Americas." She also participated on a panel with Dr. Halfdan Mahler, director emeritus of the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the greatest advocates of primary health care and one of the fathers of the slogan "Health for all," forged 25 years ago at the Alma Ata conference. Mahler spoke on "Leadership and equity in health."

To promote research development at CENSALUD, the University of El Salvador signed collaboration agreements with the Carolina Foundation, the Carlos III of Spain Foundation, the Brazil Foundation, the National Directorate of Research of the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba, and PAHO and WHO. CENSALUD will have specialized laboratories in quality control of drugs for human and veterinarian use, and for microbiological control of drugs, food and water.

PAHO, established in 1902, is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their inhabitants. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

For more information: http://www.paho.org/default.htm.


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