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Feb 9, 2016

Health Officials Confirm Belize is Zika Free

Health officials today revealed that so far, Belize is free of the Zika virus unlike many countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Samples have been sent for testing at CARPHA, but fortunately, there are no positive cases locally. The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency given the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus which is linked to brain abnormities in newborns and which according to some reports can also be transmitted through sex. News Five’s Duane Moody was present today when the ministry disclosed its national preparedness plan.

 

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“I can tell you that officially, we don’t have a confirmed case. You also have to understand that Quintana Roo which is our neighbor up north doesn’t have cases and I believe the Petén area in Guatemala hasn’t reported any cases. So if you are looking at it in that geographic area then, consider that a bigger country, then perhaps I would say no.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Officially, there are no confirmed cases of zika in Belize, but it is just a matter of when the country will document its first case of the virus. That was the message coming out of the Ministry of Health following a zika national sensitization meeting with regional managers and health personnel from across the country.

 

Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“We have started sending samples to CARPHA; we have so far sent three samples to Trinidad and Tobago. We have gotten one result back and that result was negative for dengue, negative for chikungunya and negative for zika. So we still have no conform cases in Belize. We are waiting for those other two results which I expect should be here by Friday.”

 

Marvin Manzanero

The three samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency were taken from persons from San Pedro and Las Flores, Cayo. Director of Health Services, Doctor Marvin Manzanero says that the symptoms are similar, but milder to that of dengue and chikungunya.

 

Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“There’s no particular measure that you can do at a border entry point because you can be asymptomatic. Eighty percent of zika cases will have not a sign or symptom. And because they are very unspecific signs and symptoms, you could be having the flu and would you be screened and be sent for zika testing? It is not normally recommended. I don’t think any country in the region is testing for zika. Also when you cross the border you can be asymptomatic, meaning that you got bitten, are not showing any signs or symptoms as yet and you are coming into the country. What we are doing though is once the patient shows up at a health facility, your travel history will be recorded and if you have a positive travel history of having been in an area where zika has been documented then that triggers a potential zika case that will require testing.”

 

Today at the conference room of the Inspiration Center in Belize City, ministry of health officials discussed a national preparedness plan of action. While the public health department will work with local municipalities and stakeholders with information and prevention tips, residents must follow best health practices.

 

Kim Bautista

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

“Because we are dealing with the same vector for dengue, chikungunya and now potentially zika, what we are asking them is to look at the data that they have in terms of known hotspots, known high risk areas. We know that there are certain indicators that tell us that these are hotspots for transmission of whatever diseases the aedes aegypti causes. And so we are basically highlighting in the national preparedness response and plan for them to go back and look at their data. They already know the little hotspots within their districts.”

 

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control, CDC, recently released a report that zika can be transmitted sexually. That first case was documented approximately two years ago and there is also the issue of microcephaly, where in Brazil, babies being born with smaller heads are linked to the virus.

 

Natalia Largaespada

Dr. Natalia Largaespada, Maternal Child Health Director

“Persons traveling to communities with active zika virus transmission, especially men, when they come back to country, they should be utilizing condoms for at least twenty-eight days. If the person travels to a community with active transmission of zika virus and confirm to have an infection by zika virus, then the recommendation is to utilize a condom for six months. That is what is documented and recommended so far by the world health organization.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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