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Nov 16, 2015

Zika Cases Confirmed in the Caribbean

A vector-borne illness closely related to dengue and chikungunya has been detected in the Caribbean region.  In a release issued by the Caribbean Public Health Agency, CARPHA, it is confirmed that there are five cases of Zika in the Caribbean.  While countries in South America have reported cases of the mosquito-borne disease, Belize is clear of the virus.  It doesn’t mean however, that we will remain free of Zika altogether.  The Aedes Aegypti, the same vector responsible for dengue and Chik-V, is the primary carrier of the virus.  News Five spoke by phone with Chief Operations of the Vector Control Unit, Kim Bautista.

 

Kim Bautista

On the phone: Kim Bautista, Chief of Operations, Vector Control

“Zika is a member of the family of viruses which include dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus.  Zika basically came on the radar in the region in, I believe it was earlier this year and it was basically a disease that was more common in Africa and Asia where you would get occasional outbreaks in several countries in that region.  Zika, as the name implies, it comes from Zika Forest in Uganda.  In the region of the Americas we saw Zika during the World Cup in Brazil, there were cases reported.  That was last year 2014.  This year we saw cases being reported out of Colombia, Surinam, Dominican Republic and most recently El Salvador had a scare and they had sent about a dozen samples to, I believe, it’s CDC in Atlanta, for confirmation.  And so it’s a disease that’s transmitted by the same Aedes Aegypti that transmits dengue and Chikungunya and based on the experience that we had with Chikungunya in the region where in less than a year it went throughout the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.  We decided after receiving that information from CARPHA last week Thursday that we should start educating the public and increasing surveillance ourselves.  The five cases that CARPHA confirmed, they did not name the particular islands where those cases were confirmed.  So I believe that information should be forthcoming without guessing in the coming days for us.  We have to be on alert simply because if you may recall in 2014 when we had the first case of Chikungunya in Belize it was imported from El Salvador.  So if it is that El Salvador confirms that they have Zika then countries within the region, you know, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, you know, we basically have to increase our surveillance.”

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