‘I felt pains all over my body’: Argentina battles dengue outbreak as politicians pass up vaccine opportunity

Last Updated: June 21, 2024By

Battling Dengue Fever in Buenos Aires: A Personal Story


One balmy autumn day in Buenos Aires, Michelly Natalí Barreto Sánchez, a 22-year-old entrepreneur, found herself in a fix. Running her joint, La Boca, nestled in Villa 31, a bustling slum, she suddenly felt under the weather. As she juggled serving her patrons, a pounding headache and spinning world crashed in on her.


With a heavy heart, she bid her customers adieu, shuttered the bar, and trudged home. “Within hours, agony consumed me,” she recalls, her voice tinged with the memory of pain. “My bones ached, food revolted against me, and even a sip of water proved impossible. Each step was a battle, clinging to walls for support.”


The specter of dengue loomed large over Argentina that year, shattering records. In the first two months of 2024 alone, authorities logged a staggering 57,461 confirmed cases and 47 fatalities – a jaw-dropping 2,153% surge from the previous year. By March, the numbers soared to 233,000 cases and 161 deaths, painting a grim portrait of the crisis.


Amid the scorching temperatures, the Aedes aegypti mosquito thrived, fueling the epidemic. Sylvia Fischer, a Conicet researcher, shares insights from an upcoming report: “The heat prolonged the mosquito’s reign, spreading its menace far and wide, especially in densely populated urban zones like ours.”


Natalí Barreto’s brush with dengue unfolded in the chaotic confines of an overstretched public hospital. “Eleven agonizing hours I languished, surrounded by cries of bone-deep agony,” she recounts, a shudder running through her. “Needles missed veins, blood draws turned into nightmares – a scene straight from a horror flick.”


José Salgado, a 31-year-old cartonero, echoes Natalí Barreto’s tale. “It didn’t dawn on me until later just how exposed I was,” he reflects, his brow furrowing. “We need better outreach, especially in our neighborhoods, where awareness is sorely lacking.”


In a nation where over half the populace grapples with poverty, the odds stack against the vulnerable. Environmental factors exacerbate the crisis, with stagnant waters in urban nooks becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes. “It’s a ticking time bomb,” warns Fischer, gesturing toward puddle-strewn streets where children play oblivious to the lurking danger.

Critics point fingers at the government’s apathy. Camila Mercure, a climate advocate, lambasts the administration’s neglect: “They turn a blind eye to global warnings, shrug off international obligations – and the consequences are dire.”

Vaccination emerges as a contentious issue. While experts tout its importance, hurdles hinder its rollout. “We’re left to fend for ourselves,” laments Natalí Barreto, her eyes reflecting frustration. “Only the privileged can afford protection, while the rest of us fend off mosquitoes with prayers.”

As the government grapples with accusations of denialism, ordinary folks suffer. “They brush off climate change as fiction, slash budgets, and leave us to fend for ourselves,” rues Mercure, shaking her head in disbelief.

Despite the odds, resilience shines through. Natalí Barreto, back at her bar, vows to soldier on. “I lost a month’s earnings to illness,” she confides, determination etched on her face. “But I’ll bounce back – armed with repellent and grit.”

In the labyrinthine alleys of Villa 31, hope flickers amidst adversity. As Natalí Barreto’s bar bustles once more, it stands as a testament to human resolve in the face of nature’s fury.

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