Disease risk climbs after deadly Central America rains

by AFP ,  http://www.afp.com | 2011-10-25

SAN SALVADOR — Health authorities warned Wednesday of virus outbreaks and food shortages throughout Central America as tolls rose from heavy rains that brought raging floods and landslides to the region.

The number of fatalities has climbed to 97 from the non-stop downpours that have continued into a 10th day, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.Officials reported 36 deaths in Guatemala, and 32 in El Salvador, while thousands of hectares (acres) of crops were destroyed -- a disaster for huge numbers of residents who rely on small-scale farms to survive.To the south, authorities in Honduras said 13 people had died, and in Nicaragua, there were 12 dead.In Costa Rica, Red Cross officials reported four people had drowned across the country, with the victims attempting to cross swollen rivers.

With floodwaters that once raged now sitting stagnant, authorities across the region warned of potential epidemics such as dengue spread by mosquitoes, bacteria infections and influenza outbreaks as a cold front moves south. Health officials in El Salvador reported worrying signs of respiratory diseases in people in shelters, as well as outbreaks of skin diseases and diarrhea attributed to bacteria in the floodwaters. The UN humanitarian aid wing OCHA reported 570,000 people had been affected by the rains in 7 countries, while it relayed an ongoing international assistance call from the El Salvadoran government. Cases of H1N1 influenza in some shelters of evacuees in Nicaragua are already "concerning health authorities," said OCHA.

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