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Sep 6, 2012

Survey says the burden of illness is Acute Gastroenteritis

A study was launched today; it is called Burden of Illness, and has to do with the safety of food for local consumption.  The survey is also critical because as a tourist destination, hundreds of thousands of visitors sample the food that is cooked and served in restaurants, hotels and elsewhere. One of the most common diseases in food handling is gastroenteritis but information is not easily available because persons don’t always seek medical attention. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.


Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Acute Gastroenteritis is common in Belize, but there is a lack of information on the disease. Over the next year, a Burden of Illness study will be carried out, to determine the main causes, prevention measures and the most effective treatments.


Dr. Peter Allen, C.E.O., Ministry of Health

Peter Allen

“It’s a world Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization and Ministry of Health Initiative. We’re working with the Caribbean Region Epidemiology Center (CAREC) in this and the World Health Organization and Belize as one of the member states realized that apart from the importance to our population, acute gastroenteritis and food borne disease is very important to tourism as one of our major industries. And of course, either for a Belizean living here or for a tourist visiting, it can be a terribly uncomfortable illness and in those who are not particularly health, it can cause more severe problems of course as well.”


The study will be led by Dr. Lisa Indar, the manager of the Food Borne Diseases Program at CAREC. She explains that a key factor will be targeted food safety practices; both in preparation and serving.


Lisa Indar

Dr. Lisa Indar, Manager, Food Borne Diseases Program, CAREC

“If foods are cooked properly, it should not contain bacteria or bugs to cause illness if its cooked properly. However, you can cook food properly, but then you can have something called post contamination. The food handler or waiter or so may have introduced bugs through insanitary practices; through not washing their hands after the toilet and then serving that food or the food may not be held at the proper temperature, like very hot or very cold conditions. Like a salad for instance, salads are supposed to be kept at five degrees; are they really always kept at five degrees?”


Dr. Peter Allen

“There’s lots of different causes, such as norovirus, rotavirus or Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter; there’s a lot of different causes and each of them occurs in a slightly different way, the way that they cause illness and the part of the food chain that they cause illness. Our interventions to prevent or deal with those causative agents will change depending on what really is the cause.”


According to Dr. Peter Allen, the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Health, the methodology will include testing samples from persons with gastroenteritis and a questionnaire based survey.


Dr. Peter Allen

“We take samples from as many patients as possible as part of the survey that we work with our doctors to take samples wherever we can and have them all laboratory tested so that we can see exactly what is the main pathogen that’s causing illness in Belize, particularly for acute gastroenteritis in this case. It is a very large study. It’s quite expensive as well; it will take twelve months and so we would expect that by September 2013 we will have concluded the survey itself and would hope the be releasing the information and the results of the study very soon after that. Of course, we have to do all the laboratory tests as well and compile the results. It’s not a census so we’re not going to test everybody so we take a sample, a representative sample of the population and we use that sample for a survey to generate results which can be extrapolated to apply to the rest of the population.”


Another issue being examined that is often overlooked is the economic impact of the disease, which Dr. Indar says can also be reduced with preventative measures.


Dr. Lisa Indar

“We sometimes do not realize the cost of gastroenteritis because it’s not of those diseases that requires so much attention when its occurring. You get a bit of diarrhea and you go home and you just take the day off. But the thing is, there is a cost. There is a cost of the medication, there is a cost of staying home and the fact that it is a very common illness as we have seen so the cost if actually great to the country and by doing such studies in countries, where we actually estimate the more true economic impact, we’re hoping that more resources are put into prevention so that the cost will be reduced to the country later on.”


Once the data is collected, it will be used in efforts to reduce the prevalence of the disease and improve the health services.


Dr. Peter Allen

“Of course once we know what the main causes are, that allows us to construct a foundation of knowledge from which we will be able to develop interventions which are more effective because they’re targeted and more efficient because they’re targeted. And it’s really part of our efforts to try to continually improve the access to quality healthcare services for all our people. One of the most important things about this study is helping to train our people in the methodology and the importance of getting as much information about the types of diseases that are here in our society so that we can take the same principles of evidence based decision making and evidence based interventions to all kinds of other diseases. It’s exactly the way we are continuing to develop the system.”


Dr. Indar says that studies in other countries have resulted in major changes in food handling as well as water sanitation.


Two surveys will be done; one later this month and the other in April 2013 while the lab testing will be continuous throughout the one year period. The public is encouraged to cooperate with doctors and surveyors during the process. Dr. Allen says that previous steps taken since 2008 to address food borne diseases include training food handlers, introducing a surveillance system to monitor outbreaks and strengthening laboratory services.

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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2 Responses for “Survey says the burden of illness is Acute Gastroenteritis”

  1. Ricky Malthus says:

    Why is KHMH recreating the wheel? Thousand of similar scientific studies have been conclusive as to the causes and remedies of the above disease. What will you add to scientific medical research into this area?

  2. TashybzeTashybze says:

    Maybe it’s to teach the people about these things. A lot of belizean don’t know about the most common illness. If you have a back pain, drink anacin. If you have a headache, drink anacin. If your belly is hurting drink anacin. Everything is anacin or Tylenol. I know this cause it happen to me when I was little. Got a little older got a belly pain they gave me anacin, I went to see a doctor. I am food poison. Whoa I could have die. So yes the belizean people need to know and hear about these things. I like it.

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