ASUNCION – Paraguayan health authorities used the Day of the Dead to raise awareness among those who gathered Friday in the nation’s cemeteries to honor their late loved ones, about how to maintain graves to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes that spread diseases like dengue.
The goal of the National Malaria Eradication Service (Senepa), the organizer of the campaign “Without breeding grounds we save lives,” is to stop cemeteries from being “critical places” for spreading the Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of diseases like dengue and Zika.
To achieve that objective, Senepa officials stationed themselves Friday at every entrance to Asuncion’s historic La Recoleta Cemetery to remind visitors about the danger of “accumulated, stagnant water, especially in flower vases,” Felipe Medina, one of the Senepa technicians posted there, told EFE.
Deposits of accumulated water, he said, “are perfect environments for mosquitoes to lay their eggs” and so become breeding grounds for insects that will “transmit dengue, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya.”
Another option used by some of the graves’ owners is the use of synthetic flowers to avoid watering them and in that way prevent diseases – not a popular option among the many florists whose sales boom over these days.
Some people bring not only flowers to the cemetery but also cleaning materials and a bag of moist sand to replace the water in vases, and with chairs and food to spend the day with their dearly departed. All vow respect for the advice of Senepa officials about preventing mosquitoes from breeding.
Authorities warn that the recent hot, rainy weather has created the perfect breeding ground for those dengue-transmitting insects, although the last person to test positive for dengue was last July, according to the latest Paraguayan Health Ministry report published in mid-October.
Nonetheless, in 2018 there have been some 3,413 cases of dengue and 15 deaths due to that virus.
In the case of chikungunya, the number of cases has risen to 67 since January, while the incidence of Zika in that period was lower, with four confirmed cases, three possible cases and one case of microcephaly associated with that virus.
In 2013, Paraguay had the worst dengue epidemic in its history, with 150,000 cases and 252 deaths.