Dengue Fever Still a Risk for Cubans and Tourists

08/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Yoani Sanchez Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

I got a reddened bite on my leg and yesterday I woke up with my body aching all over. The first thing I thought was that I'd become infected with dengue fever, which has reappeared -- as it does every summer -- in the neighborhoods of my city. Fortunately I didn't have a fever, so by mid-morning I ruled out that I was sick with this virus, also known as "break-bone fever." In any case I can't be sure that I won't catch it, since very close to my house there are several cases and in these rainy days the number of mosquitoes increases.

The most striking aspect of the presence of this disease among us is the official failure to report the number of infected or to mention the word "dengue" in the new media. If you go to the hospital with all the symptoms, you receive a treatment in which the six letters that spell the wretched word are never spoken. On television they broadcast ads about how to counteract the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but no one ever mentions that this is due to the existence of dengue among us. Without statistics or data, we citizens are reconstructing the number of infected based on rumors that come to us from friends and acquaintances. The alarm grows, because we always suspect there's a higher incidence than that which reaches our ears.

The silence around dengue corresponds to the permanent intention to not confess anything that damages the image of the country. To say that in our tropical "paradise" the disease has become endemic and common and that tourists should be warned of its outbreaks, exceeds the bounds of honesty permitted by our authorities. However it does not acknowledge it, nor reduce the fever, nor calm the worries of the sick and their families. On the contrary. They can put the name as dengue, or hide it in gibberish like, "fever, joint pains and rash," but this doesn't frighten away the risk; it does not help us to forget that come July and August it is an inseparable presence in our lives.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.