Life-threatening, insect-borne diseases spike in Venezuela, report says

By Nicole Acevedo

As Venezuela grapples with an escalating humanitarian and political crisis, experts are warning about a surge in potentially deadly diseases transmitted by insects that could jeopardize public health improvements in the country and the Americas.

Venezuela is seeing a resurgence in diseases like malaria, dengue, the Zika virus and Chagas disease, according to a report published Thursday by medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The diseases are transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes, ticks and kissing bugs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chagas disease, malaria and dengue can lead to death if not treated properly.

Zika virus infections could trigger other health complications such as nerve damages and spinal cord inflammations. During pregnancy, it could cause congenital abnormalities in a developing fetus.

Once one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America, Venezuela used to be a leader in public health efforts and in mosquito control programs — so much that in 1961 WHO certified it as the first country to eradicate malaria.