Doctors say government underestimates chikungunya threat

Oct 3, 2014

Two Manta area doctors believe that the threat of chikungunya, a painful mosquito-borne illness, is being vastly understated in Ecuador.

Ministry of Health officials said on Tuesday that the country’s first case of chikungunya has been confirmed in Loja Province. The disease is spreading rapidly in Caribbean and Central American countries and has recently been reported in Colombia and Venezuela. The Ministry said the Loja victim contracted the disease out of the country.

Dr. Raul Ramirez of Manta says that he has seen at least a dozen possible cases and believes the government is being too cautious in its reporting of the disease.

“I understand that they want to avoid panic but they also have the responsibility to inform the public of the potential threat,” Ramirez said in television interview. “It takes several weeks make a definite diagnosis of chikungunya but hundreds of people in the coastal areas have shown the symptoms and this should be reported.”

Ramirez says that suspected as well as confirmed cases are being reported in Colombia, a practice Ecuador should follow.  Seventy-eight cases have been officially confirmed in Colombia but the country’s health ministry says that 4,619 more are suspected. “This gives you an idea of the ratio of confirmed to suspected cases,” he says.

A second doctor, who practices in northern Manabi Province and who asked not to be identified supported Ramirez. “I have seen many cases and other doctors have too,” he said.

Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitos, primarily in low-lying areas.