13 cases of suspected dengue in Belize
There have been thirteen reported clinical cases of dengue fever across the country since the start of the rainy season a few weeks ago. We say clinical because that number may be less, following the results of definitive testing which can confirm whether or not there is an outbreak of the mosquito-borne illness. The Vector Control Unit of the Ministry of Health has been busy organizing personnel and devising a workable mitigation strategy in an effort to reduce transmission. Thus far, there has been a considerable decrease in the number of positive cases of dengue and according to Kim Bautista of the Vector Control Unit, it is good news.
Kim Bautista, Chief Operations Officer, Vector Control Unit
“It’s a very active season throughout the region. That hasn’t really touched home as yet for us but we’re planning and we have certain interventions that we’re carrying out that will mitigate that once it starts hitting home. Traditionally, what we used to see was that every two to three years we would have an outbreak of dengue. To some extent that has changed, every year to two years we tend to see outbreaks but right now, within the region, you have alerts coming out of El Salvador and Honduras where sizeable parts of those countries have been put on high alert and in the case of Honduras, I believe there was a state of emergency in some areas. In Guatemala, it has also been high, as well as in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The recent reports out of those regions are that if you look at the situation compared to last year this same time, the figures have quadrupled. When you look at neighboring Mexico as well, last year they reported the most dengue cases they have ever reported and so with all that put into context it’s going to be an active season. For us in Belize, what we have seen is that we have increased testing tremendously and that’s free testing at the various government facilities and what we are seeing is that less than five percent of what is being tested is coming out positive for dengue which is a very good thing. In 2009-2010, WHO and PAHO, by extension, released what are the new classifications for dengue and what you have now is a classification that is very sensitive but it is designed that way so that we pick up cases that could be potentially severe or hemorrhagic cases and so you have scenarios whereby persons that come in with probably fever or flu-like symptoms are clinically diagnosed with dengue. But, within that same breadth we’ve also improved testing whereby we have a very good and early testing methodology now in terms of laboratory testing where we introduce what is known as the NS-One testing which is an antigen test.”
According to Bautista, the figure initially quoted has been misinterpreted in other parts of the media since of the thirteen reported cases, only two have returned positive.