Dengue fever

A clinic in Brazil. (AP)


LatAmFocus: Is Latin America Ready for Another Pandemic?

By Chase Harrison

Dr. Mariângela Simão assesses the region’s preparedness in the face of a major dengue outbreak in Argentina, Brazil, and other countries.

Dengue fever is nothing new in Latin America, but the current outbreak of the mosquito-transmitted disease is the worst in years. Across the region, from Argentina to Brazil to Puerto Rico, hospitals are filling up with patients. The images of ad hoc tents abound in the news. Just four years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, how well-equipped is the region to tackle this one—or the ones to come?

Mariangela Simao

In this episode we hear from Dr. Mariângela Simão, the head of the Brazilian Instituto Todos pela Saude, who also served as the assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products for the World Health Organization from 2017 to 2022.

“I've been in public health for a long time now,” she said. “We keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.” In her decades-long career, Simão has witnessed both Latin America’s strengths and its liabilities when it comes to pandemic readiness. She stressed the importance of regional unity, vaccine manufacturing capacity, and quick diagnosis of diseases in preparing for the next pandemic.

In a conversation with AS/COA Online’s Chase Harrison, Simão explains what she would tell Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and others in the region. “My advice would be that we need a strong federal government because we didn't have one during the last pandemic, and it was chaotic in Brazil.” She added that having a robust ministry of health is crucial, as well as a sturdy laboratory structure. “And that means testing and sequencing, strong surveillance, knowing what's coming.”

Latin America in Focus Podcast

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This episode was produced by Executive Producer Luisa Leme and by Jon Orbach. Text by Jon Orbach. Carin Zissis is the host.

The music in this podcast was performed by Bobby Sanabria and the Multiverse Big Band for Americas Society. Find out about upcoming concerts at:

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Opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Society/Council of the Americas or its members.