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Jun 21, 2023

Belize’s No-malaria Certification Follows Several Years of No Detection

Polanco says our no-malaria status comes after several years of surveillance and lab monitoring that showed no cases dating back five years. Polanco also says that the ministry’s surveillance remains ongoing to keep the disease at bay. But the health official hastened to advise that having no malaria cases in the country is not to be confused with dengue cases.


Jorge Polanco

On the phone: Dr. Jorge Polanco, Director of Hospital Services and Allied Health

“We have not had a malaria case transmitted in Belize. The one or two cases that we had were persons that came infected, but that was actually I think one case around 2018, but from December 2018 to now, Belize has been malaria-free. So this is of much importance because it gives that degree of confidence to tourists and even to Belizeans. Of course, this is separate to dengue, right? Dengue, yes, that’s a different story. We do have dengue being transmitted in Belize, but with malaria, we have been free and we have been certified. It was a long, long effort – an effort of many, many months whereby experts from abroad came and did an assessment of our structures, of our systems in all six districts to really have that degree of confidence that when we are saying we don’t have malaria, that it really reflects the reality. They examined or laboratory system, they examined the two types of surveillance that we have, which is passive surveillance and active surveillance, and the system that they found gives that validity to our numbers, which is zero. How long will we be free? It depends on the effort that we put in maintaining our surveillance system. By this I mean, we have a network of microscopists, a network of medical technologists in the laboratories in all six districts that have been trained to look for the malaria parasite under the microscope. The community health workers at the local level, at the village level, have been trained on what are the signs of malaria, what to do with the suspect. So what this means is that any suspicion would still be tested, and we – this is what we call the active surveillance. We have to be on top of this to ensure that any fever case that perhaps could be suspected of malaria is or is not malaria. So, we cannot really bring down our guard. The surveillance system has to be up and running.”

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