Since the report of cases of people infected with monkeypox, the Peruvian Government has issued an epidemiological alert and Minsa (Ministerio de Salud – Peruvian Ministry of Health) has established a phone hotline to address doubts from the population (#113 option 6).
The eventual arrival of monkeypox is, without a doubt, a significant concern given the confirmation of cases in countries within the region. On May 30, the first suspected case was reported with a 70-year-old patient in Piura (Peru). They took respective samples to corroborate or rule out the first infection of monkeypox in Peru.
This alarm also caused uncertainty and bewilderment in the population at the possibility that monkeypox has already entered Peruvian territory. However, Dr. Víctor Suárez, head of the National Institute of Health (INS) pointed out that the suspected patient’s rashes did not match the lesions produced by monkeypox.
“The man has been in Ecuador for a few weeks and has presented a rash that can be confused with many diseases, such as measles, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, among others. For now, the clinical picture does not seem to be very similar (to that of monkeypox) since over 10 days of eruption have passed. Clinically, it rules out to be monkeypox,” he told RPP.
Therefore, it is necessary to answer some questions that Peruvians are asking about the actions of the Ministry of Health (Minsa) and other competent bodies regarding the potential arrival of monkeypox.
Epidemiological alert in health centers in Peru
The National Center for Epidemiology, Prevention and Disease Control (CDC Peru) issued an epidemiological alert at a national level after confirming the first 12 cases in Europe and the United States.
This alert aims to identify, notify, and investigate compatible cases of monkeypox in public and private health centers and establishments in the country. In addition, health professionals should report any compatible case of monkeypox to those responsible for epidemiology at health facilities.
How is monkeypox diagnosed?
The Minsa explained that, for the diagnosis, three types of samples will be considered:
- Serum swabs of skin lesions (of the liquid of the vesicles or pustules)
- Dacron swabs
- Samples of the dry scabs, or skin covering the lesion
With these samples, two tests will be carried out: real-time PCR on swab samples from the lesions and scabs or skin, and serology for antibody detection.
Then, if a case is confirmed, health entities must notify the CDC Peru
How is monkeypox spread?
The Infectious disease doctor and director of the National Executive Committee of the Medical College of Peru (CMP), Leslie Soto, explained that monkeypox is transmitted in three different ways: saliva, contaminated food, and direct contact.
“Through saliva, contagion can occur from an infected person who is talking, shouting, singing, close to another person because of the droplets. Also, with a kiss for fluid exchange,” said the specialist.
As for contaminated food, Soto indicated that this occurs when saliva passes and comes out through feces. “Therefore, if someone’s hands are contaminated, they can also contaminate food and, in this way, contaminate another person,” he detailed.
“The third way to spread it is by grabbing the wounds that have viruses and touching one of the mucous membranes,” he added.
Soto clarified that, unlike the COVID-19 virus, monkeypox will not be transmitted by asymptomatic people. “The asymptomatic person is not contagious. The person must already be sick to infect.“
Prevention measures to be considered
Therefore, according to the specialist, “in order to prevent monkeypox, measures such as the use of the mask, for the respiratory part, and constant hand washing must be considered.”
“These are the most effective measures to prevent this disease,” he said.
The Minsa recommends avoiding physical contact, wash your hands for 20 seconds and wear a double mask. In addition, the Minsa reinforced surveillance protocols at airports, ports, and land crossings because of the high risk of entry of those infected from abroad. César Munayco, executive director of public health surveillance of the CDC Peru, highlighted the importance of the information provided by passengers who come from countries with the presence of monkeypox.
“The first thing is to be alert with the identification of cases and especially the information of people who come from other places, mainly from areas where there are cases or endemic areas like in Africa.”
The CDC Peru epidemiologist urged the population to go to the nearest health center or call the hotline in case of any symptoms that are compatible with this disease.
Does monkeypox have a cure? Is it mortal?
The infectious disease doctor specified that “there are two varieties of monkeypox: the West African one and that of Central Africa. The current outbreak of cases is from the Western African variant, which is precisely the least deadly and the least aggressive in humans, so there is no need to be scared.”
The specialist indicated that this disease is not fatal and that the way to deal with it is with medications directed at the symptoms.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
According to the CDC Peru, the incubation time for the disease is from six to 16 days, but it can vary between five and 21 days. The agency specified that the infection has two periods: “invasion”, which lasts up to 5 days; and “rash,” which lasts one to three days after the onset of fever.
In the period of invasion, the patient presents symptoms such as fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy, lumbar pain, myalgia, and intense asthenia. While, in the second period, the different phases of the rash (skin eruptions) appear, which usually affects the face first and then spreads to the rest of the body.
CDC Peru commented that the skin lesions can affect the face, palms and soles and other areas. They are of increased consistency, deep, well circumscribed and umbilicated.
Where will confirmed monkeypox infections be isolated in Peru?
The Deputy Minister of Public Health, Joel Candia, reported that people who test positive for monkeypox will be isolated in the Ate Vitarte and Villa El Salvador (VES) hospitals because these establishments have the necessary biosecurity measures and the proper equipment to deal with these types of disease. He also assured that outside the Jorge Chávez International Airport there will be an ambulance destined to transport infected people who enter the country.