Argentina Is Running Out of Bug Spray Amid Record Dengue Surge

The country is facing its worst dengue outbreak in history, an illness spread by mosquitoes that has swept across Latin America during high temperatures and heavy rainfall.

According to the Health Ministry, Argentina has reported 233,000 dengue cases so far this summer in the Southern Hemisphere — eight times more than the number reported the same time last year. There have also been 161 deaths. Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina have been the most affected, with over 3.5 million dengue cases. According to the Pan American Health Organization, 83% are in Brazil.

Jarbas Barbosa, director of PAHO, told reporters on March 28 that the number was “reason for concern” as it represented three times the cases reported at the same time in 2023. That year, more than 4.5 millions cases were reported in the area.

Barbados, Costa Rica Gaudeloupe Guatemala Martinique and Mexico all saw surges in dengue cases, Barbosa stated. Dengue fever is another name for dengue because it can cause high temperatures and severe pains. Some cases may require hospitalization, even though most infections will improve within 10 days. Infected people are more likely to end up in hospital if they get infected again.

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Jorge Munua stocked the shelves of 11 supermarkets owned by his family in the greater Buenos Aires region with approximately 7,000 cans. They were all sold out within hours, despite a limit of one can per customer. He said that even vanilla extract, which is the main ingredient in the DIY alternative, was flying off the shelves.

There is no repellent available anywhere. I called wholesalers and other supermarkets. Munua is the commercial officer at supermarket chain El Abastecedor. “As soon as stock arrives there’s such a psychosis that it just flees off the shelves,” he said. It’s the same as what happened during the pandemic with hand sanitizer.

Shops in Buenos Aires are tired of customers’ pleas for bug spray and have started posting signs on their doors saying that they do not have any. On the online market MercadoLibre mosquito repellent cans are selling for $20 each, a 500% increase from their retail price. This is a shock to even inflation-battered Argentines who have been struggling with consumer prices that are increasing at a rate of 276% per year.

The government of President Javier Milei lifted import restrictions for mosquito repellent on Monday. This included a relaxation of inspection requirements by the local health authorities. Mario Russo, the Health Minister who gave his first television interview last week said that the waiver benefits would be implemented “probably within two weeks”.

In a recent press release, SC Johnson, whose product dominates the local market to the tune of 80%, reported a 300% increase in demand from the same time last year. They called this “unprecedented”. Now they plan to import over 120,000 bug spray canisters from Poland. The company donated 20,000 cans of bug spray to the provinces in the north, where there are the worst outbreaks and the highest rates of poverty.

Russo the Health Minister recommended that people should wear light colors, long sleeves, and to “be cautious with shorts.”