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Oct 5, 2017

Healthy Living Assesses ‘Pink Eye’ Outbreak

September may have been the month of celebration, but this year it was also the beginning of a rapidly spreading conjunctivitis or pink eye epidemic. The latest information from the Ministry of Health is that from September tenth to today there has been over six thousand plus cases of pink eye reported in Belize – and those only indicate the persons who visited the clinics. This infection seems to be viral and not bacterial, which explains why it is spreading like a wild fire.  Infected children are out of school; businesses are short staffed due to sick employees and we have yet to hear from Social Security what the total pay-out for sick days is costing. This is why the ministry is pleading for all Belizeans to do their part in curbing the spread of the infection. Here’s Healthy Living:

 

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It’s a common infection; one that usually sees a small increase at the beginning of every school year. But this year conjunctivitis or pink eye has managed to spread across Belize at an alarming rate. The Ministry of Health has explained that we are in the midst of a pink eye outbreak.  Manager for Central Health Region, Doctor Javier Zuniga, explains why this infection has been rapidly affecting children and adults across the country.

 

Javier Zuniga

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Manager, Central Health Region

“The cause of the outbreak at the moment is viral infection and these types of infections caused by viruses tend to be very contagious so they spread very rapidly in the population from person to person.  Any type of epidemic disease will have an epidemiological curve or “epi-curve”. It starts with first cases appearing one, two, three cases then all of a sudden you have peak and that rapidly increases to max then there will be a plateau where the number of cases will remain constant and that is telling us that the disease or the condition has now plated in the population and then we’re looking at a disease of the number of cases within the population.”

 

Doctor Zuniga indicated that the Ministry Health believes that the outbreak is at the peak or beginning to plateau. As Primary Care Coordinator for Central Health Region, Doctor Melissa Diaz explains the symptoms vary person to person.

 

Melissa Diaz

Dr. Melissa Diaz, Primary Care Coordinator, Central Health Region, MOH

“Generally what people are presenting with are swelling of the eye burning, pain, irritation, we’ve also had cases more severe cases who present with fever with enlarged lymph nodes as well. So they are many different levels of symptoms that patients are presenting with. It’s like you catching a cold and I catch a cold your body might mount different immune system so you may have worse symptoms than I do. But generally we are asking people to stay at home between five to seven days. Some people might last a bit longer and some have been well three to four days after.”

 

While many are concerned about the sudden onset of this latest outbreak, it was somewhat anticipated as all across the region: starting in the Caribbean then Central America there has been reported outbreaks of this viral epidemic.

 

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Mexico had a recent outbreak just before Belize and that could explain why we had so many cases appearing up in the northern districts then it moved unto the Belize District and we do expect an increase in the districts if it is not contained.”

 

This is the major priority for the Ministry of Health, which has been working with other ministries to contain the rapid spread of the disease.

 

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“There has been some collaboration as well in regards to school children so they do not attend school if they are ill there was a press release that went out from both ministries in regards to this.  The Ministry of Health is looking to advise employers that are trying to hold their workers even though they are ill and this is a problem because if they are at work they can pass on this infection to other workers who are not ill. If we do not take into account these preventative measures these contagious diseases can spread very rapidly from person to person now if it was a fatal disease where you had death involved we would have a lot of deaths this is primarily because we see that the public is not assisting the Ministry of Health in trying to break the cycle of this contagious disease.”

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“The mainstay of the management of the disease is to stop the spread. By stopping the spread we mean isolating yourself. Separate yourself from the general population. We’re asking parents to keep children at home if they’d have pink eye from schools at every level from workplaces as well. We are also asking vendors, food handlers not be selling food, not be handling for with conjunctivitis as everybody who purchases from you is at risk of the developing conjunctivitis as well. Try not to touch your eyes even though its irritating its itching its painful, were asking you to wash your eyes with water, just distilled water or water from the pip you can also purchase artificial tears and out it in every hour every two hours. All of these things will help to alleviate some of your symptoms and stop you from touching your eyes which will make you less likely to be spreading the illness. If you have a family member with conjunctivitis to try to avoid direct contact with person. Contact is the main way it is spreading so you touch your eyes, you touch the table the rag, I go on and follow touch the same thing and I touch my eyes and then I then develop conjunctivitis. So if you can avoid direct contact with the person who is ill, if you can also avoid touching your face or your eyes, not sharing the same towels, rags whatever that person is using and try to avoid and isolate that person from you. You should be able to prevent getting the infection.”

 

Lastly, stay away from home remedies; they may do more harm than good.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“Urine especially can introduce significant bacterial infection into your eye and can even lead to blindness depending to what bacteria is in the urine you are actually introducing that right into the eye. So kindly just isolate, hand washing, avoid touching your face and eyes, artificial tears and eye washing as often as possible.”

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