Contagion from Venezuela’s economic meltdown is literally spreading to neighboring nations — in the form of potentially deadly diseases among millions of refugees, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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Medical officials in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela told the news outlet the collapse of Venezuela’s health system has turned the country into an incubator for malaria, yellow fever, diphtheria, dengue and tuberculosis, as well as the virus that causes AIDS.
And those diseases are now cropping up beyond its borders.
In Manaus, Brazil — 600 miles from Venezuela — measles has reappeared, sickening 1,000 people and 2,000 total in the state, the Journal reported.
“Individuals who are forced to exit the country without proper medical care can transmit a million different things, or have the potential to trigger an outbreak that no one can predict but that will eventually occur,” Dr. Irene Bosch, a research scientist who has studied infectious diseases in Colombia and Venezuela with the U.S. National Institutes of Health told the Journal. “It is a perfect storm condition for a catastrophic medical situation.”
Many of the 2.3 million Venezuelans who’ve fled the country since 2014 have settled in northern Brazil and western Columbia, the Journal reported.
“They arrive malnourished, weak, and only then we discover they are sick,” Sandra Palomino, a coordinator at a center that cares for indigenous migrants, told the Journal.
On a typical day in Cucuta’s main hospital, Erasmo Meoz, up to 40 percent of those in the emergency room are from Venezuela, hospital authorities told the Journal — some showing symptoms of TB, others malaria.
Increasingly, doctors are seeing patients with HIV, the Journal reported.
In the border town of Cucuta, Colombia, Yendy Pereira arrived from Venezuela with her two young children who hadn’t had shots against TB and tetanus — knowing authorities and aid groups vaccinate Venezuelans, the Journal reported.
“I told my husband, let’s do it for the kids,” Pereira told the Journal. “The main reason was for the vaccines—that and the food for them.”