Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Peru detected the first case of diphtheria in 20 years

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The patient is a five-year-old girl from the central area of ​​Lima, in whose neighborhood the health authorities began to carry out preventive checks from house to house.

Peru launched a national epidemiological alert this Wednesday, with house-by-house inspections, after detecting in Lima the first case of diphtheria in 20 years, amid efforts to contain the coronavirus.

“The Hospital 2 de Mayo (in Lima) immediately identified and notified the case to Epidemiology,” said the Vice Minister of Health, Luis Suárez, at a press conference.

Diphtheria is an acute disease that -like the new coronavirus- it is transmitted mainly by secretions of infected people. It is caused by the Klebs-Löffler bacillus (Corynebacterium diphtheriae).

The patient is a five-year-old girl from the central area of ​​Lima, in whose neighborhood the health authorities – accompanied by military patrols – began to carry out preventive controls from house to house to detect other possible cases and to vaccinate neighbors, both adults and minors.

“50 brigades have been displacedThey are made up of a doctor and a nurse, to find out if there is any other suspect or person who may have the disease, “Alfredo Centurión, director of the Lima Centro Health networks, told AFP.

“As a second objective, people are being vaccinated, especially children, who do not have an updated vaccination schedule. We are vaccinating a sector of 130 blocks surrounding the girl’s home “he added.

The girl lives with her family in La Victoria, a populous district with many industries and businesses of 200,000 inhabitants, near the historic center of the Peruvian capital. In it is Gamarra, a famous textile emporium in Peru.

“We are on alert for extend vaccination where needed if other similar cases appeared, “said Centurion.

The girl, who was hospitalized but remains stable, belongs to a family from the Amazon that has settled in Lima for a year.

Had been vaccinated against diphtheria at birth, but did not receive the following inoculations. Therefore, “she is an unvaccinated girl,” said the vice minister.

Suárez recalled that the last case of this disease -which mainly affects the pharynx and can be fatal in 10% of patients- se had recorded the year 2000.

The deputy minister explained that diphtheria generally causes “whitish plaques in the upper respiratory system” with “high fever, pain when swallowing”.

Dr. Centurión explained to AFP that the 2000 cases were registered in the northern region of Ancash.

The authorities did not specify how many cases there were that year, but, according to Ancash media, there were at least 221 sick and two deaths.

Almost three months ago the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had warned that the covid-19 pandemic caused a “devastating impact” in health care in Latin America and the Caribbean, and that there was a measles outbreak in Brazil and diphtheria cases in Haiti and Venezuela.

On that occasion, PAHO highlighted that, due to the new coronavirus, routine vaccination campaigns had been suspended, there were problems for the care of pregnancies and non-communicable diseasessuch as hypertension and diabetes, as well as a shortage of drugs to treat HIV and tuberculosis.

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