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May 19, 2016

All You Need to Know About ZIKA

There is a first confirmed case of Zika in Belize and it involves a woman in the north side of City. The Ministry of Health is carrying out surveillance in all neighborhoods of the City to avoid additional cases. Tonight, the message is to protect yourself from being bitten by any mosquito, especially the aedes mosquito which is active early in the morning and late in the evening. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The zika virus having been recently confirmed in Belize, the Ministry of Health continues to spread awareness on the disease.  The infection, known as Zika fever, often causes only mild symptoms, similar to a very weak form of dengue fever.  Its spread from an expecting mother to her baby may result in microcephaly and other severe brain problems.

 

Javier Zuniga

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Manager, Central Health Region

“What occurs is that the brain is not developing at a normal rate and this in turn then affects the skull.  So the head itself then is smaller than normal and what does this lead to?  Well, the outcome would be that that particular newborn or child would have a slow development or developmental problems throughout his lifespan.  This can lead to other consequences, for example that the child cannot learn well in school and then, of course, cannot go to school, cannot get a job and on a whole the development of the country is affected.”

 

While there is no outbreak of the disease, the fact that it was detected in Belize City has prompted officials from the Central Health Region to give precedence to specific neighborhoods.

 

Javier Alpuche

Javier Alpuche, Senior Public Health Inspector, Central Health Region

“Now that we have confirmed case in the city we first started we first started off by prioritizing areas of interest.  We went into those areas, conducted thermal spraying, ULV spraying, premises inspection and from there on now we have expanded to include the entire city and we have already started the ULV spraying in Belize City as early as last week.”

 

Of note is that the same mosquito that is responsible for the spread of zika is also the vector for other illnesses, including dengue and Chikungunya.

 

Javier Alpuche

“It is the same vector, the Aedes aeypti or the Aedes albopictus that is the vector for Zika.  It’s also the vector for dengue and Chik V, therefore the control measures are the same.  What we are doing specifically to zika, as soon as the ministry shared with us the national response plan for zika, the surveillance was initiated and the general idea behind that was to capture information as early as possible so that we can focus our interventions on the most needed areas.  That was then.”

 

The signs of zika are often subtle.  Occasionally however, patients can come down symptoms of conjunctivitis.  Not all pregnancies where females are infected with the virus results in microcephaly.  Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Manager for the Central Health Region, explains.

 

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Patients will probably have a low grade fever which means a very slight fever.  They can also present with joint pain, rash and a non-virulent conjunctivitis or what we call pink eye or red eye.  Those are the four major symptoms but the two that are outstanding in cases that we see now would be the low grade fever and the rash.  Those are the two that stand out from the others.  Now in terms of the problem with microcephaly.  So zika has now been linked to causing microcephaly in fetuses of pregnant females. Not all pregnancies would lead to, in a case where the mother is infected by zika virus, will lead to zika virus.  It’s just a small percentage.  We can detect microcephaly in the uterus but that is very costly because you’ll need to do an ultrasound for each pregnant mother and you’ll have to do an ultrasound in the first trimester and in the third trimester to rule out any abnormalities with the fetus.  So if it is detected within the womb that early there is very little that we can do if the mother wants to have that child.  The Ministry of Health is working on policy on what would be the case scenario in which we have a mother that has been detected with microcephaly and what outcome there might be with that pregnancy.  So I cannot comment to say that we have something in place because we’re still working on that.”

 

The following are tips that can help to prevent becoming infected with zika.

 

Javier Alpuche

“The message to the general public is protect yourself from being bitten by any mosquitoes.  How do you do that?  We know that the Aedes mosquito is usually active early in the morning and late in the evening, dusk and dawn.  Those are the preferred feeding times or biting times for the mosquitoes, so if you are outdoors use a repellent, use a long sleeve blouse or skirt or long pants and you can also protect yourself indirectly by eliminating the mosquito breeding sights that are in and around your residences.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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