The number of new malaria infections in Venezuela amounts to one million people, said several Venezuelan scientists, who based this situation on the "decadence" of the country's health system, a "great setback" that threatens the rest of South America. .
"This is the largest increase in malaria that currently exists in the world because of the speed and number of cases," Dr. Adriana Tami, of the University of Carabobo (Valencia, Venezuela), told Efe.
"Until 2017, we had quite official data that indicated 400,000 cases per year, and in 2018, based on the estimates and the progress of the epidemic, it was estimated at the middle of the year that there were already some 600,000 cases, and we believe that it has even reached more than a million by the end of the year, "he added.
Tami, who is also a researcher at the Groningen Medical Center in the Netherlands, stresses that this calculation is the result of a study done by a group of epidemiologists and scientists who have access to the data collected by the clinical centers for the surveillance of epidemics in Venezuela. in the places "where malaria is".
This expert stresses that the history of malaria in Venezuela was "one of success" because in the mid-40s of the last century affected 80% of the population but "then there was a successful eradication campaign" that eliminated this disease from less two thirds of the Venezuelan territory.
"Venezuela was the first country certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) for having eradicated malaria from most of the territory, but now, in the 21st century, we see that we returned from 40 to 60 years ago, seeing that malaria it is again prevalent in most of the territory, "lamented Tami.
According to the latest data from WHO, Venezuela contributes 53%, the highest number of malaria cases in the entire region, and that is "very serious," he added.
In the last two decades, as in the year 2000 when 30,000 cases per year were perpetuated, malaria has been related to illegal gold mining in the southeast of the country, where the health system "does not work well" in general.
The residents "are people who are exposed (to the disease), who destroy the environment, who create the habitat for the mosquito that transmits malaria and of course live in a situation that is not appropriate, in favelas to which almost no help arrives, people are not treated and the malaria cycle is perpetuated, "says Tami.
María Eugenia Grillet, professor at the Vector and Parasite Biology Laboratory at the Central University of Venezuela, told Efe that infections have been on the rise since 2014, but that based on "the under-registration that exists in the country", one can speak of the estimate that the number of new cases in 2018 was already in a million people, although they are not official figures.
He warned that "the program of surveillance, diagnosis and control of malaria has been dismantled little by little since 2012, product of all the political and economic crisis" that Venezuela suffers, which has "magnified the epidemic in an uncontrolled manner", he claimed.
Grillet recalled that illegal mining has also "intensified by the same crisis the country is experiencing, attracting people from other parts to work temporarily in the mines and then take the disease to other areas" of Venezuela when they return to their homes.
He added that the government of Nicolás Maduro "does not accept or recognize this crisis" and that means that "nothing is done to solve it because it does not admit international aid", and regretted that the current state of health is "part of a strategy of social submission of a communist and dictatorial regime ".
Both scientists warned that the increase in malaria cases in Venezuela threatens and increases the risk of infection in neighboring countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina, where many Venezuelans are emigrating because of the crisis in their country. country.
Tami, who will present on Tuesday a report prepared together with an international network of scientists at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, warned that more than half of the Venezuelan population, 16 million people, are in danger of malaria infection.