Dakar/Ouagadougou, November 25, 2016 – Nearly 2,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported in Burkina Faso since August. As of November 22, the Ministry of Health says 18 people have died since the outbreak began. The majority of cases have been concentrated in the Central region of the country, in and around the capital, Ouagadougou.
The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), in collaboration with SOS Médecins Burkina and Keoogo, began supporting the Ministry of Health’s response efforts on November 18th, as the burden of the disease remains high. ALIMA and its partners are now supporting the Yalgado Ouedraogo University Hospital in Ouagadougou where the most severe dengue cases are treated.
“This is certainly the largest documented outbreak of dengue fever to hit Burkina Faso,” said Vincent Mendiboure, ALIMA program manager in Dakar. “The Yalgado Hospital and peripheral clinics continue to register hospitalized patients.”
In addition to providing free care for people with severe dengue, ALIMA will reinforce the country’s diagnostic capacity. This includes sending 2,100 Rapid Diagnosis Tests (RDTs) to strengthen epidemiological surveillance and case management.
Health centers often are not stocked with RDTs and, when they are, the tests can be expensive. In private clinics, the test costs on average 15 Euros – a price much too high for much of the population.
“The scarcity of diagnostic tests and the high price, has made it more difficult to respond,” Mendiboure said.
Doctors say the number of cases could be higher than 1,962, but without RDTs, the number of cases is difficult to determine.
Dengue, which is a virus spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, most often occurs in urban areas. The last outbreak of dengue in Burkina Faso was in 2013. There were 111 reported cases.
Many of the symptoms of dengue are similar to malaria or the flu, and include headache, high fever, nausea and muscle aches. In severe cases, patients can begin to hemorrhage or experience organ failure. If left untreated dengue can be lethal.
If cases are caught early and sick patients have access to quality medical care, the risk of fatality is very low.
“Early diagnosis is fundamental in order to give the best possible treatment,” said Doctor Eric Diendere, an infectious disease physician and president of SOS Medecins Burkina. “Because without the rapid tests you must first eliminate the possibility of other diseases such as malaria or typhoid, and then think of dengue. This delays the diagnosis and best treatment of dengue, and could worsen the condition of patients.”
The main way to prevent dengue is to avoid mosquito bites. This includes sleeping under bed nets, wearing long clothing and clearing away stagnant water.
ALIMA is ready to support to other health centers and plans to scale up its medical support to the Ministry of Health’s response to the outbreak, as the needs arise.
ALIMA has been working in Burkina Faso since 2012. Currently, ALIMA is conducting two medical-nutritional projects in the districts of Yako and Boussé. Nearly 4,000 children with severe acute malnutrition were admitted to ALIMA’s nutritional programs between January and October 2016.
ALIMA is an independent humanitarian medical organization founded in 2009. ALIMA aims to produce quality medical care in areas of high mortality and improve the practice of humanitarian medicine by developing innovative projects. In Burkina Faso, ALIMA works with two national medical organizations, SOS Doctors and the Association Keoogo. The ALIMA projects in Burkina Faso are supported by the Office of Humanitarian Affairs of the European Commission (ECHO).
Photo by: Zoumana Wonogo