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Jul 31, 2002

Dengue on our borders threatens Belize

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Dengue Fever is back in the news, as outbreaks in neighbouring countries tend to find their way across the border. Belize has three confirmed cases of classical dengue, believed to have originated in neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras, where both classical and the more deadly haemorrhagic varieties abound. Guatemala has also been placed on a “state of alert” after over one thousand, five hundred cases of classical dengue have been reported. Director of Health Services, Dr. Errol Vanzie, says a team of Belizean and Mexican health professionals met today in Chetumal to develop a joint plan of action to combat the disease in border areas.

Dr. Errol Vanzie, Director of Health Services

“That fact that we have migratory movements from Central American into Belize again facilitate that process. The plan is to develop a joint control and prevention programme with Mexico and also with Guatemala in order to minimise the probability of an outbreak.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Belize has been lucky over the years. In other words, it hasn’t been plagued with too many cases, elaborate for me a bit.”

Dr. Errol Vanzie

“Well it’s more than luck. We knew that the risk existed, it always start somewhere in Central America and we take the necessary steps to prevent the introduction of the disease in the country. Even though we have done that, we had a few cases, I would say an average of seven to ten cases per year. In the last three years we have not had any case.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“What can Belizeans do to combat dengue haemorrhagic and the classic dengue.”

Dr. Errol Vanzie

“I should mention that the vector for dengue is the domesticated mosquito. It lives in an around the house and breeds in containers that are partially filled with water. This is one disease where the public has an important role to play. If people will just take half and hour, one hour to go into their yards an eliminate all containers including tyres, large containers that are used for storage and boxes, that is the most important activity that any country can do to prevent the introduction of that disease. I should also mention that the fact that Belize has had small outbreaks of classical dengue, those people that have been exposed in the past, if they were to be exposed again to dengue, they can develop dengue haemorrhagic fever. We know that this condition is highly fatal, the mortality is fairly high.”

Vanzie is urging all communities to conduct clean up campaigns to prevent an outbreak of what could be a fatal disease.

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