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Oct 22, 2014

No Confirmed Cases of Chik-V in Belize…Not Yet!

Facing the threat of the dread Ebola, the nation went on high alert, which is a polite way of saying we panicked. There’s no threat from that particular source any longer, but now there’s a new report that Chikungunya is here, specifically in one community in the City of Belmopan. Chikingunya, or CHIKV, doesn’t inspire quite the same paralyzing fear as Ebola, but if it has made its way to Belize, it is a significant health concern, much the same way Dengue is. We know that the presence of the virus has been confirmed in El Salvador and Guatemala, two of our Central American neighbours. We also know that there is a large migrant population in Belize, and frequent cross border travel to those countries. But did the unwanted visitor come calling? Mike Rudon travelled to Belmopan this morning to find out, and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This vector control team has been conducting operations in Las Flores for two weeks, testing, spraying and educating residents. The community is the current hotspot for dengue, so therefore also a possible prime zone for Chikungunya. The name is hard to pronounce, so I’ll just call it Chik-V. It is carried by the adult mosquito, just like Dengue, and the symptoms are similar, except that there is more pronounced pain in the joints. Its incubation period is anywhere from three to seven days, and the symptoms can persist anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The case of allegedly confirmed Chik-V was found here in this community.

 

Kim Bautista

Kim Bautista, Vector Control Chief of Operations, Ministry of Health

“We don’t have a confirmed case of Chikungunya. To have a confirmed case of Chikungunya means that you have to have a patient who fits the criteria and has also tested positive using either an ELISA test or a PCR test, testing that has been approved by CDC and WHO. What we do have is an individual who visited a private lab facility in Belmopan. That person did a rapid test, a very popular rapid test that is on the market, and she tested positive using that rapid test.”

 

That sample was sent to the Ministry of Health, which has sent it to Belize City to the Central Lab for testing with a CDC approved kit. The results are pending for that specific person. But there are others – two to be precise, whose samples are also awaiting confirmation.

 

Kim Bautista

“We did have an individual who had travelled, a Salvadoran national who visited but her test is also pending. We also have a family member of the individual who had tested positive who has similar symptoms but who has not been clinically diagnosed. As a precaution, we also took a blood sample for confirmation. So in terms of persons who we have pending results for, it’s basically three persons, but confirmed cases no.”

 

Health officials say that Las Flores has always been a problematic area, first for malaria years ago, and now for Dengue, and maybe Chik-V. What is being used is called knock-down spray, a combination of chemical Icon and diesel. It targets the adult mosquito, and in households where there are positive cases of Dengue, the team sprays the home and a perimeter of fifty metres.

 

Kim Bautista

“It has a huge migrant community, and you have persons travelling back and forth to Guatemala and El Salvador, and in this case El Salvador which has several thousand Chikingunya cases. And even several cultural habits in terms of positive breeding sites you have a lot of what they refer to as ‘pilas’ which are containers that they use for laundry. They tend to store quite a bit of water in drums as well. And so you got to Las Flores and you find that in many areas. As Las Flores has expanded, you also have some areas with some poor housing, poor drainage and also just a habit of people storing a lot of containers around their premises.”

 

Figures for confirmed Dengue are on par with 2013, but there has been a spike in the incidences of hemorrhagic Dengue, which is much more serious. That’s the reasoning behind the ramped up operations, and with the possibility of Chik-V, those operations will continue. Like we said, don’t run for the hills just yet – Chik-V is no Ebola.

 

Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Interim Head of Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health

“I think it has wider ramifications in terms of the labour force, for example. Given the characteristics of Chikungunya, you have people who will be off from work anywhere from one to two weeks. If that starts to happen, and you have an outbreak, then you have potential losses in that regard. So that is why it needs to be seen as a problem which can go beyond the Ministry of Health. It perhaps doesn’t seem to be on the radar as Ebola, which has a higher mortality. Chikungunya can have mortality, but it is very minimal. It can be very similar to Dengue, and if you have a Dengue outbreak, Chikungunya can potentially have the same kind of effect.”

 

According to the Ministry of health’s Epidemiology Unit, there hasn’t been a death from hemorrhagic dengue since 2011.  Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

This afternoon, a fourth person from the area visited a private clinic and reported that they tested positive for CHIKV in Salvador before travelling to Belize. A sample has also been taken from that person and sent for testing. Up to news time, the Ministry of Health has not received any clinical confirmation from the tests. 

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