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Health Alert:  National Health Emergency Declared in Guatemala Due to Dengue Epidemic (September 1, 2023) 
September 1, 2023

Location:  Throughout Guatemala

Event:  Guatemala’s Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS) declared a National Health Emergency on August 31, 2023, due to a dengue epidemic in Guatemala.  Over the last three months more than 10,000 cases of dengue have been reported in the country, including the more severe (often called hemorrhagic) cases.

To date, there have been 12,263 confirmed dengue infections in Guatemala, of which 14 percent (or 1,720 cases) are severe dengue. There have been 22 deaths reported, the majority among children under age 15.   Thus far, the areas with the highest incidence of dengue are Zacapa and Antigua, followed by Chiquimula, Petén, Escuintla, Quetzaltenango, and Baja Verapaz.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided the following information about dengue on their website:

About Dengue

Dengue viruses are spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.  Dengue is caused by one of any of four related viruses (dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4), all of which have been present in Guatemala.  The same type of mosquitoes can also spread chikungunya, Zika, and other viruses.  If a person is infected with different dengue viruses during their life, it increases the chance of severe disease.

Aedes mosquitoes typically lay eggs in containers with standing water, like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flowerpots, and vases.  Mosquitoes come out to feed around sunrise and sunset, but people can be bitten by an infected mosquito at any time during the day or night. Aedes mosquitoes often like to rest in closets or other indoor locations near humans.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

Infection with dengue virus can result in no symptoms, mild, or severe illness.  Severe dengue can be life-threatening within a few hours and requires care at a hospital.

The most common symptom of dengue is fever with any of the following:  nausea, vomiting, rash, aches, and pains (including muscle, joint, or bone pain or eye pain, typically behind the eyes).  There is no specific medicine to treat dengue.

About one in 20 people who get sick with dengue will develop severe dengue.  Severe dengue can result in shock, internal bleeding, and even death.  If you have had dengue in the past, you are more likely to develop severe dengue when re-infected.  Infants and pregnant women are at higher risk of developing severe dengue.

Watch for signs and symptoms of severe dengue.  Warning signs usually begin in the 24-48 hours after your fever has gone away.  Immediately seek medical evaluation if you have any of the following symptoms:  belly pain or tenderness, vomiting (at least three times in 24 hours), bleeding from the nose or gums, vomiting blood, blood in your stool, or feeling tired, restless, or irritable.

Actions to Take:

  • Consult the CDC website for more information about dengue transmission, testing, symptoms and treatment, and mosquito control.
  • Seek medical treatment if experiencing any warning signs or any symptoms that cause you concern.
  • Outside your home, remove standing water where mosquitos may lay eggs, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers.
  • Inside your home, empty any items that hold water, such as vases or flowerpot saucers.
  • Close windows and doors, or ensure you have screens in place. Consider using an indoor insecticide if you have mosquitoes in your home.
  • Use mosquito repellent when outdoors. Repellents with DEET or picaridin give the longest protection, but there are many effective options


U.S. Embassy Guatemala City, Guatemala

Website:  https://gt.usembassy.gov/

Phone:  (502) 2354-0000

Email:  AmCitsGuatemala@state.gov

State Department – Consular Affairs

888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

Guatemala Country Information and Travel Advisory Page

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