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Oct 28, 2002

Health, school officials face hepatitis in Cayo

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Just the mention of the word hepatitis is enough to put the public and health officials on edge…but right up front, lets get things straight: what we’re talking about in the following story is hepatitis A, a non-fatal disease not to be confused with the often deadly hepatitis B. But even hepatitis A can pack a wallop, and a large number of suspected cases in Benque Viejo has residents and officials on the alert. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

With still a few more days to go before Halloween, the children of Mount Carmel Primary School have fears more pressing than mere ghosts and goblins. The first outbreak was three years ago, now once again health officials are dealing with hepatitis A in the Cayo District.

Shortly after school opened in September, a number of students from the lower and middle divisions of Mount Carmel Primary School started getting sick.

Corina Toralla, principal, Mount Carmel Primary

“We had once child from the infant division who was the first one that reported to the office. That was in early September, and that child came from Melchor. Then two other cases, simultaneously with other cases from children here showed up.”

Today, a total of twenty-four students are suspected to have hepatitis A. Of that number, nine cases have been preliminarily confirmed at the Mopan Clinic in Benque Viejo del Carmen. According to Dr. Alfonso Ayala, deputy regional health manager for the western district, they are still awaiting results of blood samples taken from the students last week to determine of the children did in fact contract hepatitis A.

Dr. L. Alfonso Ayala. Dep. Regional Health Manager

“The kinds of symptoms and signs of the way the disease is spreading, and because it happens in different places, and we had it before three years ago in the same place. All that indicates that very likely we are in front of hepatitis A.”

Hepatitis A is not a life-threatening disease, but the viral infection is highly contagious. To keep the virus from spreading, the students, staff and parents are being encouraged to practice good personal hygiene…since the only ways you can get the disease is through person to person contact or food and water contamination.

Dr. L. Alfonso Ayala

“In this case you have to always be careful what you put in your mouth. Food, water, and most of all, you have to wash your hands over and over again after going to the bathroom, and especially before handling food. People who prepare food have to be extra careful and you need to wash your hands many times. Even at a personal level, before you put anything in your mouth wash your hands thoroughly.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Additional buckets containing a mixture of chlorinated water and Clorox have been placed outside of classrooms to ensure the children do wash their hands after using the bathroom.”

Corina Toralla

“The teachers started immediately to talk to the little ones, to take them to the bathroom and show them the things that they should do and what they have to do and illustrating to them how they can be contaminated. The teachers in the middle division were teaching about hepatitis and the importance of good hygiene.”

Since last week, no new suspected cases of Hepatitis A have been reported at the school. Health officials hope that through ongoing campaigns the situation has been brought under control. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

On Tuesday health officials will once again visit schools to provide information on the disease and explain the steps necessary to contain it.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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