By Mariel Cristaldo
ASUNCION (Reuters) – A dengue fever outbreak that has affected thousands of Paraguayans in recent weeks has reached as far as the presidential palace, with the country’s leader Mario Abdo confirmed as having been struck by the disease.
The country’s Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni said on Wednesday that the 48-year-old president fell unwell during an trip to the east of the country and returned to the capital Asunción where the diagnosis was confirmed. He has been ordered to rest.
“The result of the blood test effectively confirms that the President has dengue,” Mazzoleni said at a press conference.
“He will fulfill his agenda in Mburuvicha Roga (the presidential residence) with some restrictions,” he said, adding the President was in a “good general condition”.
The diagnosis underscores the potential severity of the outbreak of the disease in Paraguay, which has the second highest incidence of dengue in South American after Brazil. A severe outbreak in 2013 led to 250 deaths in the country.
Abdo, in a post on Twitter, thanked people for their messages of support. “I am fine, thank god. Getting some rest. We must be conscious that dengue can attack us all.”
The World Health Organization says the incidence of dengue, which causes high fever and joint pain, has been growing rapidly in recent decades. There is no specific treatment, but early detection and care reduces risks associated with the disease.
The minister said Abdo must complete a rest period of at least 48 hours and will be evaluated day by day in order “to discharge him when appropriate”. He added that the rest time could last three to seven days.
Dengue is an endemic disease in Paraguay, with cases peaking in the summer months when the transmitting Aedes Aegypti mosquito proliferates. The government announced days ago that it is preparing for a strong epidemic that would peak in February.
The health ministry has also confirmed that so far this year two people have died due to the disease and another 14 deaths are being investigated. In addition 1,800 cases of dengue have been confirmed and about 10,000 suspected cases reported.
(Reporting by Mariel Cristaldo; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)