The Caribbean region has been warned by a dengue fever alert issued by the Pan American Health Organisation. Although dengue fever is endemic to the region, so far the periodic outbreaks have been caused only by dengue viruses of the 1, 2 and 4 strains. However, experts fear the worst is yet to come, since the fatal dengue virus 3 has been discovered in Nicaragua and Panama. "A serious outbreak of dengue fever in the region could have adverse economic as well as human consequences," warns World Health Organisation epidemiologist Keith Carter.

Barbados has been quick to respond to the warning. The island nation has begun a clean-up campaign to destroy the breeding grounds of the aedes aegypti mosquito - tanks, barrels, old containers and tyres - which transmits the fever.