Local health authorities have warned of the risk of the Zika virus spreading through the Piura region (northwest). Only some 25 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported thus far but environmental conditions facilitating the spread of the disease are of concern.
On the other hand, rates of dengue fever cases are falling. The region has been hit by a major epidemic in recent weeks, triggered by major flooding earlier in the year. Both the Zika virus and dengue fever are transmitted by the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito, also a potential carrier of chikungunya and yellow fever. Small pockets of stagnant water provide fertile breeding grounds for the Aedes Aegypti, including water found in and around homes (e.g. in vases, pet bowls, piles of garbage, buckets, etc.).
While the Zika virus in itself is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in approximately 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), have been established. When symptoms do occur, they generally appear two to seven days following contraction of the disease, and include fever, headache (behind the eyes), conjunctivitis, rash, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain. The virus is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of classic dengue fever include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, nausea, and rash. Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is a potentially deadly complication that is characterized by high fever, the enlargement of the liver and hemorrhaging. Be aware that aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) should be avoided as these drugs may worsen bleeding issues associated with the disease; patients may be given doses of acetaminophen (paracetamol).
Individuals in Piura and Peru more generally - particularly pregnant women and their partners - are advised to take measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites - e.g. by wearing non-revealing clothing, using insect repellent, and sleeping under mosquito-netting or in an air conditioned room - and to eliminate possible mosquito breeding grounds.