Peru Declares 90-Day Alert Over Chikungunya Virus

Peru’s government has declared a 90-day national health emergency to provide authorities with tools to prevent an outbreak of the Chikungunya virus, daily Peru.21 reported.

“The measure aims to allow the Health Ministry to take measures for prevention and prepare services,” Health Minister Midori de Habich said.

The Supreme Decree, which was published in the official gazette El Peruano, also called on regional governments to strengthen health controls to reduce the presence of the Chikungunya virus.

No cases have yet been reported in Peru, but the virus spreads quickly and could become prevalent in the jungle areas of Loreto, Madre de Dios, Ucayali and San Martin, and in the tropical north coast areas of Piura and Tumbes.

People can become infected with the Chikungunya virus from mosquito bites. Cases of the virus have been detected in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, according to the the U.S.’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says that the virus first appeared in the Americas in late 2013, in the Caribbean. It has gained attention more recently in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro has lashed out at doctors who have warned of the spread of the virus. Maduro has been criticized for saying the doctors are partaking in scare tactics and “psychological terrorism.”

Symptoms of the virus include fever and joint pain, as well as headaches, muscle pains, joint swelling and rashes.  The symptoms will be more pronounced in young babies and old people, but the disease is not fatal.

The CDC says there is no vaccine for the Chikungunya, but individuals can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites by using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants.

The Health Ministry in Peru said it has detected three cases of the virus that arrived in the country from abroad. It said it was able to control those cases.

The government’s decision comes as public sector health workers are on strike, demanding higher pay. De Habich called on doctors and nurses to return to their posts to support the government’s efforts to prevent an outbreak of the virus.

The federation representing the public sector health workers has questioned the emergency declaration, saying it is a scare tactic by the government.

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