Zika Virus Outbreak in Venezuela Worsens With Lack of Medicine

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Feb 06, 2016 05:19 AM EST

Lack of medicines may drive the Zika virus to cause more damage than it already has in Venezuela.

Luisana Melo, Venezuela's Health Minister, said in a statement last week that the country had suspected cases of Zika estimated at 4,700.

However, Professor of tropical epidemiology at the Central University of Venezuela Julio Castro calculates that around 250,000 to 400,000 Venezuelans are infected with the Zika Virus -- a high prediction as compared to the country's health minister. Castro came up with the numbers by feeding the government's limited data and other reports of unexplained fever cases, according to a report by PRI.

Independent organizations like the Network to Defend National Epidemiology and other Venezuelan experts have also provided similar projections as to the number of infected people in the country.

As such, if the numbers are accurate, it could mean that 33 million residents of Venezuela may have a worse "per capita rate" than Brazil which has 205 million people of which there are an estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million infections.

Castro believes that the forecast may be true as the Aedes aegypti, the carrier of the Zika virus, is found in 16 to 20 per cent of Venezuelan residences as compared to Brazil where it is detected in 4 to 5 percent of homes.

"The first thing the government needs to do to start tackling Zika is provide the public with reliable, trustworthy information," Castro recommends, as per PRI. "That has not happened up to now," he adds.

The health industry does not consider Zika as a serious condition; however, it becomes perilous when it leads to a severe neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome. If the condition is not treated right, the patient may suffer from irreversible damage, or worse, die.

Intravenous immunoglobulin and plasmapheresis are the two known treatments for Zika and both are currently unavailable in Venezuela due to lack of resources and supplies, according to a report by Fox News Latino.

Venezuela's health secretary between 1997 and 1999 and physician Jose Felix Oletta warned that the situation in Venezuela may get worse in the weeks to come.

"The government has announced the import of 3,000 doses of immunoglobulin-g for the first trimester of 2016, but we estimate the real need for that time period is 26,000 doses," Oletta told Fox News Latino.

The 11 Zika patients who died in Caracas and other cities are reported to have not had the proper access to immunoglobulin-g or albumin.

The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela says, as told by Fox News Latino, that the government has more than $4 billion debt to pharma companies and doctors in the country are forced to treat with 20 percent of medicines usually available in developed countries.

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