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May 21, 2020

Healthy Living: Dengue – Another Potential Outbreak

Since the start of 2020, we’ve all been focusing on COVID-19.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the only health issue you should be concerned about.  There’s another potential outbreak that may be coming and we find out more in tonight’s Healthy Living.



Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

COVID-19 has captured the world’s attention as the most urgent health battle, but it doesn’t mean that less attention should be given to other threats for disease outbreaks. In Belize, with the intermittent rain and humid conditions, we also must remember to maintain vigilance for outbreaks of dengue.


Kim Bautista

Kim Bautista, Vector Control, Chief of Operations, Ministry of Health

“There tend to be two spikes throughout the year for dengue. We tend to see a very early spike in the first quarter of every year. Then things tend to taper off and then don’t see the next spike, which would be the main transmission season that occurs somewhere between May and November.”


So that means right about now. We should start to see an increase in dengue cases. It may be hard to recall, but last year, Belize battled a massive dengue outbreak with over eight thousand cases and about ten fatalities. According to the Pan American Health Organization, in 2019, the Americas reported more than three million cases of dengue – the largest number recorded in the region so far.


Kim Bautista

“Globally you had the highest record ever number of cases.  That included Belize, which saw a record-breaking number as well.  Around February, we had a regional bulletin from PAHO advising us that it seems that the trend would continue for 2020. At the time of their reporting up to the first eight weeks of 2020, most neighboring countries had seen a two to three times increase for the same period in 2019.”


But so far, it seems like Covid-19 may have brought with it an unexpected silver lining. In that in Belize, we haven’t seen the same type of increase in the number of cases of dengue. Health Officials believe this is because the country was beginning its phased shut-down.


Kim Bautista

“The lockdown helps because there’s less persons moving from one district to the other. Persons from the endemic areas were not moving to non-endemic areas—lots of factors but primarily those two things.”


Marleni Cuellar

“So for now, the cases have been concentrated in what would usually be your hotspots?”


Kim Bautista

“Yea, you look at the data we shared. Sixty-six percent of the cases the year are being identified in Corozal and Orange Walk districts, and those can be narrowed down to specific areas in those districts.”


So what happens now that movement restrictions are loosening?


Kim Bautista

“We’ve been discussing that internally amongst the management team. And definitely, the whole COVID-19 situation had an impact on how we execute and carry out services to the general public; there was for almost two months basically no field activities in terms of the house to house inspections and things like that. So, it defiantly had an impact, but as I believe a little over a week ago, we are reverting back to our routine activities.”


So, the usual call for dengue prevention commences, clean your yard, ensure that there are no vessels or garbage collecting water as these can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes -even those backyard kiddie pools. And even though we are in pandemic monitoring COVID-19, the public must also be on the lookout for the early signs and symptoms of dengue.


Kim Bautista

“One of the key messages that we want to get out is that we have grown to sort of live with dengue over the years and many persons have basically passed these episodes and take it as just maybe oh I have the common flu or a little cold, but we have seen whereby there are a short window twenty-four to forty-eight hours where either you recover, or you take a turn for the worse. That is one of the things that we saw last year with some of the fatalities that we had. You come down with the classic symptoms, fever, headache, chills, body ache. You need to seek healthcare at the nearest facility.”


So while we may not be seeing record-breaking numbers as yet, it is still an urgent situation that we must all be carefully monitoring.


Kim Bautista

“You can bet your dollar that when your forecast and modeling are done, and they present it and tell you it’s going to be an active year. More than likely, it’s going to bed an active year. We saw that last year, and that’s just carrying over to this year. We have a few things to our advantage in terms of the border being closed. The curfew has also helped as well, persons being locked down during peak mosquito period, which tends to be between six and nine p.m., so that also played into our favors. But we can’t take it for granted that that is going to be all that we bank on. And we also can’t take it for granted that we need to rely on the Ministry of Health to do their part. We saw it with the experience of COVID-19. It’s a shared responsibility in terms of public health, and the same applies to vector-borne diseases like dengue.”

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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