LA PAZ – Four hundred Cuban doctors in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz are helping to fight the dengue epidemic, a disease that has infected 32,000 people in the country, 18 of whom have died, Health Minister Ramiro Tapia said on Saturday.
"We have helped from abroad, chiefly from friendly countries like Cuba. In Santa Cruz, 400 Cuban doctors are working with us" on tasks of prevention and treatment, the minister said in a statement on the state-run radio station Patria Nueva.
Tapia underscored the aid coming from other countries in the region like Venezuela, which, he said, was sending Saturday "another contribution in supplies, medicines and insecticides, besides the 20 tons" that Bolivia received last week from the Hugo Chavez government.
"We want to avoid more deaths, and to help us Venezuela has shown its solidarity with a donation of nine tons" of aid, he said.
He also mentioned that other nearby countries like Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru have cooperated or are going to do so in the fight against dengue in Bolivia.
"I believe that our solidarity makes Bolivians work together and without distinction" to eradicate the disease," he said.
Dengue, a disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes high fever, headache, vomiting and skin rashes, and can be lethal in its hemorrhagic version, which occurs when a person is infected for the second time.
With more than 30,000 cases and 18 deaths, Bolivia is going through the worst epidemic of the disease in the last decade - and the government has expressed a fear that in March the number of infected could rise to 50,000.
Bolivia's epidemic is worse than the one in Paraguay in 2007, which infected 27,000 people and caused 17 deaths.
Nonetheless, the health minister showed a certain optimism Saturday in saying that his ministry has found "a notable decline in the number of people affected" after Carnival and announced a massive fumigation for next weekend in the city of Santa Cruz, the most affected by the epidemic.