Paraguayan health authorities Wednesday said 14 people had died of Chikungunya while over 18,000 cases of the malady had been confirmed in the most recent outbreak which lead the Municipality of Asunción to declare an environmental emergency for 90 days as healthcare facilities were crammed.
In the meantime, a meeting was held among Health Ministry, Armed Forces, and National Police leaders to coordinate joint actions against the chikungunya virus.
We are facing an emergency that is still environmental. We do not want it to be a health emergency. We do not want to see hospitals overcrowded because of this problem; we have a limit and we want to avoid the consequences, Health Minister Julio Borba said after the encounter.
He also confirmed the country had recorded 14 deaths due to chikungunya, including 3 newborns, while 103 patients remained hospitalized, of whom 25 were in intensive care units (ICUs).
Borba also pointed out that 95% of the homes visited in Asunción and in the Central Department had chikungunya mosquito breeding sites, due to which the disease is spreading fast. The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads both the chikungunya and the dengue pathogens.
Health Surveillance Director Guillermo Sequera said underreporting of chikungunya cases was up to 20 times more than in previous years and that 90% of cases occur in the metropolitan area of Asunción.
Meanwhile, Asunción's Hospital de Clínicas reported four babies in ICU because of chikungunya, in addition to 501 outpatient consultations for febrile cases in January, while in the first week of February, consultations reached 402, 233 for adults and 169 for pediatric cases. Of all the patients seen, four are newborns who are in intensive care because of chikungunya. Epidemiologist Rebeca Guerín explained that since January, the number of cases has been on the rise. In the Pediatrics area we have 20 suspected cases of chikungunya, of which four are in neonatal intensive care, she said.
The newborns' mothers were infected with the chikungunya virus before the babies were born, it was explained. Transmission occurs at the moment of delivery, Guerín noted. The mothers were already infected with the virus and therefore the newborns were diagnosed by epidemiological link. Of course, in children under five years of age, the test is performed to confirm. To date, four newborns are in therapy for chikungunya, she said while adding that the overall situation at the Hospital de Clínicas was worrisome.
Alexis Marecos of the Hospital de Clínicas' Adult Emergency Service insisted that it is not the neighbor's mosquito that bites us, but the one we breed.