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Aug 10, 2017

Healthy Living: Watch Out for Zika!

We are in the middle of the rainy season when mosquito borne illnesses tend to increase. Dengue continues to infect a number of Belizeans each year and now Zika is a persistent threat to our population.. In tonight’s Healthy Living, the Ministry of Health reminds the public about the importance of staying vigilant.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

As of July 2017, the Ministry of Health Central Region has reported 46 cases of dengue and 8 cases of zika. Compared to last year’s reported cases; there is an increase in both dengue and zika cases. However, as Regional Health Manger of the Ministry of Health Doctor Javier Zuniga explains it is not so much a spike in cases as it is a return to the normal.

 

Javier Zuniga

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Health Manager, Ministry of Health

“What happened during that time when we have an outbreak? zika was not present in Belize any at all so with one castoff zika, that is an outbreak. What happened, the ministry of health and central health region we upscale our interventions and this included the regular spraying with the ULV spraying we also increased the fogging. We also went out into the communities with stagnant water and we placed a bait in these different areas. So the activities increase significantly and that led to a decrease in population of mosquitoes and of course the mosquito that transmits zika is the same one that transmit Dengue which is the Aedes Egypti mosquito.”

 

When zika first entered the region in late 2015; it made headlines all over the Americas and there was great concern as the links to birth deformities and other complications were revealed. In Belize, it led to an amped up mosquito intervention in 2016, which is now attributed to last year’s decrease in cases. But the upscale intervention was not cost effective and this year the Ministry of Health has returned to its normal schedule which includes yearlong education, clean up campaigns and a scheduled spraying and fogging. Senior Public health Inspector, Lisa Tillett, says she has found that Belizeans are doing more to reduce the population of mosquitoes since the zika scare.

 

Lisa Tillett

Lisa Tillett, Senior Public Health Inspector, Ministry of Health

“We have a lot of people that when we go, they are asking for you to come. They want the officials to be there to assist them and they work with us. We see signs where the interventions are working because you can go back to certain person’s yard and see a big improvement. The grass is cut; the containers that hold water are there no more. So it takes working together. Letting people feel like a part of the Ministry of Health and vice versa. Sometimes we don’t spray on schedule because we have priorities that we have to give to certain areas. For example we don’t each and every time the rural area but when they have an increase in mosquitoes we would remove from the normal schedule and deal with those kind of situations.  Once it rains and the wind is blowing strongly, we don’t spray cause it will be a waste of the chemical and it is very expensive to do these interventions.”

 

Doctor Zuniga reminds Belizeans that they must continue to vigilant as we will continue to see cases of dengue and Zika on a yearly basis as they are both endemic.

 

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“You have the virus present within the population of the vector — in this case the Aedes Egypti mosquito – that virus will now remain in that population. Once the mosquito dies it does not mean that the virus dies with the mosquito. That mosquito lays eggs and within these eggs the virus persists.  That particular community becomes endemic which means the virus is always present. Its now endemic particularly in the area where there was an epidemic for example I’ll be specific, in Belize city, Caye caulker, San Pedro and this just for central health region. But in the other districts you also had outbreaks in Corozal; so they have now become endemic to the zika virus. There is an epidemiological profile so there is an outbreak then an increase in the number of cases and it plateaus and it decreases but it never decreases to zero. We’ve had a couple cases in Belize district and these children unfortunately developed microcephaly but we are monitoring them very closely and we also are providing guidance as to other services that they can acquire due the different condition that they may present.”

 

Both Zuniga and Tillett reminds Belizeans about the importance of preventing any mosquito borne illness. This starts with reducing your exposure to mosquitoes.

 

Lisa Tillett

“You know the time the mosquito comes around – when night falls. Ensure your windows and doors are closed. Make an extra sacrifice to buy the screens; if you can’t afford he fancy ones you can buy the screen by the yard and nail it around the window. Every now and again you need to do your own spraying within your home.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“And their yards?”

 

Lisa Tillett

“The yards may be more hard for you but if you have an issue where the Ministry of Health can assists. Each Friday we do assist the public with fogging out of their homes and assistance in their yard.”

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