Although three of Ecuador’s 28 confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been treated in Cuenca and Quito hospitals, the victims contracted it elsewhere.
“Residents of Cuenca and Quito are safe from the Zika virus if they do not travel to to low-lying areas,” says Jhoanna Rueda, a regional director of the Ecuador’s Ministry of Health (MOH). “There has been a great deal of confusion about this and it is important that all Ecuadorians understand the threat of this virus and where it can be contracted,” she said.
According MOH, disease-carrying mosquitoes cannot live at the altitude of Cuenca and Quito, 8,300 and 9,000 feet respectively. “Their range is from sea level to 1,700 meters (about 5,600 feet), which means that some mountainous areas are susceptible. In 2015, two locally contracted cases of the chikungunya virus were confirmed in the Vilcabamba Valley, which averages about 5,000 feet.
The chikungunya virus is carried by the same kind of mosquito, the aedes aegypti, that carries the Zika and dengue viruses. Zika, dengue and chikungunya cannot be spread through person-to-person contact.
Health authorities say that those living on or traveling to the coast are the most suspectible to Zika, with Guayas and Manabi reporting the most cases so far. “We expect there to be many more cases in coming weeks and ask those in low-lying areas to use protective clothing and insect repellent to protect themselves,” Rueda said.
Only 20% of those infected with Zika actually show signs of it. Those who do, experience rashes, joint pain, headaches and eye infections. Although Zika’s symptoms are less severe than those of dengue and chikungunya, it is considered more of a threat due to a possible connection to birth defects. More than 4,000 babies born in Brazil have shown signs of retarded brain development after the mothers were diagnosed with the virus.
Cuenca’s one case of Zika was confirmed Monday at Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital, where the patient was successfully treated and discharged. The hospital’s health coordinator Oswaldo Suarez said the patient was infected during a recent trip to the coast or in the nearby city of Portoviejo.
Suarez advised Cuencanos who plan to travel to the coast, Yunguilla or Vilcabamba for the Carnival holidays to protect themselves from mosquito bites.