Peruvian Cholera Epidemic Reportedly Spreads to Towns Near Bolivia
Feb. 24, 1991
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ A cholera epidemic that has killed more than 130 people and infected 30,000 spread to new regions of the Peruvian Andes, radio reports said Saturday.
First Lady Susana Fujimori, seeking to bolster Peru's sagging fisheries industry, told reporters she was continuing to eat raw fish. A Health Ministry spokesman told reporters that such eating habits were ''dangerous.''
Cholera, spread in feces-contaminated water and food, affects the intestines, causing diarrhea and severe fluid loss. It can be fatal if not treated promptly.
The Health Ministry has noted that most sewage from Peru's millions of coastal inhabitants is dumped untreated into the ocean.
''In the Government Palace, we continue to eat ceviche and so far nothing has happened to us,'' Mrs. Fujimori said Friday, in comments printed Saturday by Lima newspapers.
Ceviche, a mixture of raw fish, onions, hot peppers and lemon juice, is a popular dish in coastal Peru.
Mrs. Fujimori also said the Japanese dish sashime has been served in the palace in recent days. Both President Alberto Fujimori and Mrs. Fujimori were born in Peru of parents who immigrated from Japan.
A Health Ministry spokesman Saturday reiterated warnings not to eat raw fish.
''Yes it is dangerous,'' the spokesman said. ''We highly recommend that people not eat raw food, whether it be vegetables, fruits or seafood.''
Fishing industry officials have complained about the Health Ministry warnings.
The president's office, the Fisheries Ministry and the Foreign Ministry last week launched a public relations campaign to convince people that fish is safe to eat. The campaign noted that so far no confirmed cases of cholera have been traced to fish.
Peru's large domestic market for fresh fish disappeared entirely in the first days after the ministry's warnings that seafood may carry cholera.
Fisheries Ministry officials say domestic sales are now about 20 percent of normal. Peruvians ate 265,000 tons of fresh fish in 1990.
The Health Ministry warnings also hurt Peru's fish exports, which earned the country $469 million last year.
The radio reports Saturday said cholera had spread to towns near Peru's borders with Bolivia. The radio also reported new outbreaks in the central Andes.
The Health Ministry has said it has been slow to confirm cases of cholera in the mountains because of poor communications.
Official figures released Friday showed that at least 134 people have died in the epidemic, out of 26,340 confirmed cases. Between six and seven people have died per day in recent weeks.