Peru’s Ministry of Health is ramping up prevention measures in 20 regions of the country against the zika virus disease, in response to the World Health Organization’s decision this week to declare the virus a “public health emergency of international concern.”
On Monday, health authorities began a fumigation program of 1,800 homes in Lima’s northeast district of Carabayllo, where the country’s first case of the zika has been reported.
Although the only case reported so far is of a young Venezuelan who most probably had the virus when he arrived in Peru from Venezuela and Colombia, the Health Ministry is taking no chances. The fumigation program includes homes and all areas where there may be stagnant pools of water, and the program is bolstered by information on prevention.
The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitos, which are present throughout the hemisphere, except for Canada and Chile. This mosquito is also the transmitter of the dengue and chikungunya fever viruses, for which prevention and information campaigns have been ongoing for several years along the coast and in the rainforest.
The most common symptoms of zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). There is no vaccine or preventive medicine against zika and protection measures include the use of mosquito nets, long sleeves and long pants, and insect repellents.
The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 but only in 2015 was it potentially linked to a sharp rise in birth defects in Brazil, namely of microacephaly, a condition where a baby’s head and brain don’t fully develop.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil.
WHO’s designation of zika as a public health emergency, or PHEIC, has led to an 11-member committee of specialists to study and monitor outbreaks around the world and to support the development of vaccines and the elimination of the Aedes mosquito.
In Peru, Ministry of Health is focussing its prevention campaign in Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, Lima, Callao, Loreto, La Libertad, Madre de Dios, Ucayali, San Martín, Amazonas, Cajamarca, Ayacucho, Ancash, Puno, Pasco, Cusco, Huanuco, Junin and Ica.