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Apr 23, 2014

Ministry of Health on alert; CHIKV detected in Latin America and the Caribbean

CHIKV, a mosquito-borne virus which causes an illness similar in transmission to dengue fever, has become an emerging threat within Latin America and the Caribbean.  Infection causes an acute fever which can last anywhere between two to five days, succeeded by a prolonged period of joint pains, intense headache, sleeplessness, and weakness.  While vector control is the best method of prevention, CHIKV has no specific treatment with medication.  With cases being reported in both regions, the Ministry of Health is tonight on alert and is launching a countrywide awareness campaign.  This afternoon a press conference was held in Belize City where public health officials, as well as Director of Health Services Dr. Michael Pitts were on hand to discuss the threat of the disease.

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Dr. Michael Pitts, Director of Health Services

Michael Pitts

“For this disease there is no vaccine so basically once somebody gets the disease you treat the symptom.  Chikungunya, unlike dengue where somebody can get a series of dengue cases, can only get Chikungunya once, so you get it and it’s finished.  Chikungunya however, is a disease that doesn’t lead to a lot of deaths but it leads to a protracted illness where instead of people being ill for a week or two they can be sick up to six months or a little longer with a cardinal feature being the joint pain.  It is transmitted by a mosquito.  Now, for Belize when we spoke to the population about dengue we spoke about the Aedes Aegypti, now this same mosquito also transmits dengue.  In addition, there is another variety of the Aedes mosquito that is present in Belize that can also transmit this Chikungunya.  So the approaches then to managing, well let me just give the cases.  For the region we started in St. Maarten and I believe St. Maarten reported up to April about twelve hundred cases, confirmed cases of Chikungunya and you have as far north as Dominica with seventy-two cases.  I believe recently there are some cases reported in Dominican Republic, I think about seventeen cases reported in Dominican Republic around the fourth of April and in French Guiana last week, the confirmed about forty-six cases.  So, nowhere on the mainland of the Americas, except for French Guiana we have other cases confirmed.  So Belize has no cases but I must say that we have all the environmental conditions, we are tropical just like the Caribbean.  The mosquitoes are there, the environmental conditions are there and the level of interaction is happening where I think it is really safe to say that it’s not if but when it will come here.  So we are in a preparation mode to deal with this so today, what we had with our staff to start off a major sensitization having done some groundwork, start off formal sensitization with a staff and then we need to also have sensitization with the general population so that they can be aware of what is on the horizon and what they can do to help.”

 

The public is advised to take all necessary precautions by getting rid of breeding grounds for mosquitoes, including old tires, buckets, etc.

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1 Response for “Ministry of Health on alert; CHIKV detected in Latin America and the Caribbean”

  1. Jose says:

    We don’t need sensitization what we need is fumigation. For the past years all we’ve had is sparse fumigation campaign..so help us God!

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