After a record number of people in the Dominican Republic died from dengue fever this year, Seventh-day Adventist humanitarians are leading an effort to stall the disease's spread through awareness.
More than 6,000 Adventist young people participated in a national prevention campaign coordinated by the church's humanitarian arm, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, and the country's Ministry of Public Health from August 29 to September 5.
The young people gave their friends and neighbors fliers about dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitoes in tropical climates. Symptoms are flu-like, including fever, headaches and severe joint and muscle pain. The disease was fatal in at least 100 cases reported this year in the Caribbean nation.
An outbreak of the disease this summer has affected an estimated 9,000 Dominicans, three times as many as were affected last year during the same time, the Pan American Health Organization reported. Across the Caribbean, dengue has struck more than 80,000 people, PAHO said.
"The basic solution [to] dengue fever is educating people on how to prevent it," said Luis Miguel Acevedo, ADRA director for the Dominican Republic. Learning how to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites is a first step, he said.
That includes emptying containers outside that have collected rainwater and removing garbage that can spread the disease, said Carlos Rilio, who helped mobilize the young volunteers and serves as Youth Ministries director for the Adventist Church in the country.
Acevedo said that ADRA contacted the Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic to offer assistance with the nationwide awareness campaign. The effort, designed to reach more than 100,000 homes in the country, focused on several communities in its capital, Santo Domingo, where outbreaks have been severe.
The joint effort with the Ministry of Public Health prompted ADRA and the Adventist Church to commit to further collaborative efforts to benefit the country. ADRA has already been solicited to aid in a national vaccination campaign next year, Acevedo said.