A major dengue fever epidemic triggered by recent flooding continues in the northwestern region of Piura. More than 35,600 confirmed or probable cases of the disease have been detected in region since the beginning of the year, including 31 fatalities, as of June 7. However, transmission rates appear to be falling, with 2072 cases reported during the week ending June 4, compared to 5500 cases in the previous week. The Zika virus, carried by the same mosquito that transmits dengue fever, is also present.
More than a million people across Peru were affected by torrential rains - which resulted in major flooding and landslides - from December 2016 to April 2017. This abnormally intense rainfall, which left more than 100 people dead along with widespread damage, has been attributed to the El Niño climatic phenomenon. Pockets of stagnant water provide fertile breeding grounds for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, potential carriers of dengue fever and the Zika virus, as well as chikungunya.
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).
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.
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 covering clothing, using insect repellent, and sleeping under mosquito-netting or in an air conditioned room - and to eliminate possible mosquito breeding grounds (small pockets of fresh water, such as rain water that has collected in cans, bottles, tires, flower pots, clogged gutters, etc.).