A state of panic has taken over the inhabitants of Asunción, capital of Paraguay with thousands queuing for vaccines following the confirmation of seven fatal cases of jungle yellow fever and four more clinically compatible but still undetermined.
The seven cases, confirmed Thursday by the World Health Organization, WHO, occurred in San Pedro department, north of the country but the other unconfirmed four in the urban area of San Lorenzo, just twenty kilometers from Asunción. Unconfirmed press reports from the capital indicate that 75% of a million doses of the anti yellow fever vaccine have been inoculated in two days. This is the first outbreak of the mosquito transmitted disease in Paraguay in 34 years. However another health alert was declared in Paraguay last month amid a suspected outbreak of dengue fever also having mosquitoes as the infesting carriers. According to a release from WHO the Paraguayan Ministry of Health has strengthened public health containment measures in the affected areas. Integrated control measures involving mass vaccination for people living in, or traveling to, the affected area; vector control; and heightened surveillance are underway to prevent serious public health consequences given the current low level of immunization among the people living in the affected area. A PAHO team of experts including an epidemiologist, clinician/virologist, risk communicator, immunization advisers and emergency management experts was deployed to Paraguay on 15 February. A laboratory scientist from IEC Instituto Evandro Chagas (Brazil) will join the national public health laboratory shortly. WHO admits there's a shortage of yellow fever vaccines which has been addressed by mobilizing vaccines available in countries of the region In addition, the Paraguayan Ministry of Health has requested 2 million doses of vaccine from the WHO ICG (International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision). Paraguay's Deputy Health minister Antonio Barrios responsible for the immunization campaign said that any moment "we'll be receiving a reinforcement of a million doses donated by France, one of the world's largest producer". Barrios said that the current stock includes 100.000 doses sent by Venezuela plus another 300.000 available for risk areas in the departments bordering Brazil and Argentina such as San Pedro, Amambay, Kanindeyú and Alto Parana. "Asuncion is not in danger of contagion but people keep pressing for vaccines and in some places people have been particularly aggressive with paramedics4 and nurses", pointed out Barrios. In Luque, a suburb of the capital Asuncion and an area considered high-risk, hundreds of protesters tried to hammer down the door of a health centre, Reuters news agency reported. In Villa Elisa, another city close to Asuncion, residents blocked a highway and burned tires. At least 13 people are thought to have died in an outbreak of the disease in neighboring Brazil. Asuncion has 1.5 million inhabitants, limited distribution of drinking water and almost inexistent sewage system.