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Dec 7, 2017

Healthy Living: Getting Malaria Cases to Zero

When we think of mosquito borne illnesses in Belize, Malaria is probably not the first disease to come to mind. There is a reason why that is so. That’s what we find out in tonight’s Healthy Living.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
2020 – that is the target for Belize and other countries in this region to eradicate all cases of Malaria. Eradication of any disease is no easy task; but, it is possible and in the case of malaria – Belize is very close.

 

Kim Bautista

Kim Bautista, Vector Control Chief of Operations, Ministry of Health
“Belize peaked its cases in 1995 with over ten thousand cases and last year we were down to five cases and as of 2017 we are at seven cases. That is basically the situation in country.”

 

According to Kim Bautista the Vector Control Chief of Operations for the Ministry of Health. Our current status places the country in a favorable position to meeting our target of zero. While the rest of world aims to eliminate malaria by 2030 as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals, Back in 2013, Belize along with the rest of Central America felt this region had a favorable environment for the elimination of the disease and so collectively embarked on EMMIE – the elimination of malaria in Mesoamerica and the Island of Hispaniola – aiming to do so by 2020.

 

Kim Bautista

“It’s not as difficult as it seems, if you go back to early 2000 you had about half the communities in this country having active cases of malaria, last year we only had cases in the Trio Village which is right on the border of Stann Creek and Toledo. So that has been one the most longstanding hotspots in this country for many reasons. We saw the resurgence of malaria around 2014 in the north along the border with Mexico and they are still having transmission on their side of the Rio Hondo. And we had an outbreak in a couple villages including Patchakan up in the north so we managed to bring that under control and there is no more malaria being reported there. This will be for two consecutive years. So were down to a handful of communities for 2017.”

 

Belize has received support from Global Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PAHO and others to focus on moving pass the finish line with EMMIE. At the end of the November the Ministry representatives held a health fair in Trio village educating villagers about malaria, its signs and symptoms and prevention. Currently, the village reports one hundred percent bed net usage, spraying twice and year and continued community education – which includes educating the wider public on signs and symptoms of malaria and reminding physicians to test patients.

 

Kim Bautista

“Malaria is transmitted by the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. We have several of those Anopheles vectors in Belize.  It is a parasitic disease. You go through that incubation period then you get the telltale symptoms. Which are fever, chills, you get headaches and some persons will tell you they get vomiting and also the way it works is that as the parasite level goes up in the blood you get that sudden onset of chills and that tends to happen when you get that eruption of parasites within the blood stream.  Even though time has elapsed, malaria testing in Belize has remained the gold standard. Very basic I take a blood drop on a slide and I smear it and that is stained and observed under a microscope directly observing for different stages of the parasite.  We have a small group of seven microscopists in country and who read on an annual basis about twenty five thousand slides.”

 

If you have been diagnosed with malaria, it is important to complete your full treatment if you want to rid yourself entirely of the parasite. Bautista reminds that although we have seen close to ninety-nine percent reduction in cases, it will take continued vigilance for us to completely eradicate malaria.

 

Kim Bautista

“It shouldn’t be a forgotten disease… I think we’re still pushing that message even within our facilities. It’s a very cheap test and one that should be done especially to rule out fever or the combination of fever and chills.”

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