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Feb 21, 2013

Virus transmitted by mosquitoes threatening the health of horses and humans

A mosquito borne disease is posing a threat to the health of horses and humans. The virus that is known as V.E.E. has been detected in two districts but it has the potential to spread if preventative measures are not taken. The Belize Agricultural Health Authority is on alert. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.   


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

An outbreak of a mosquito-borne viral pathogen that can cause what is known as Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis has been reported in Belize.  V.E.E., as it is often referred to, can affect all species of horses, including donkeys and mules.  The virus has since been detected in the Corozal and Cayo Districts where health officials are deployed to gather data on the sudden occurrence.


Miguel DePaz, Director of Animal Health, BAHA

“Since November of last year we have been cases of Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis.  The disease is a viral diseases and it’s transmitted by mosquitoes.  The primary cycle is within birds and mosquitoes but an infected mosquito can transmit this virus to a horse or to a human.”


In Central America, a growing activity of syndromes consistent with equine encephalitis has been observed in horses, particularly in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.  The speed with which the disease spreads depends on the subtype of the V.E.E. virus, as well as the density of the mosquito populations.  According to Dr. Miguel DePaz, Director of Animal Health with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, horses should be vaccinated to avert the spread of the disease.


Miguel DePaz

“First of all you want to get into that preventative mode and to do so there is a vaccine to protect animals against the disease.  You vaccinate the horse against the disease and in that way the horse is protected.  There are other measures which you can implement such as getting rid of areas that are infested with mosquitoes because as we know the disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.  So you want to eliminate the source of the virus.  Humans can take precautions by using long sleeves and long pants in highly infested areas.  Horses that are infected you can isolate them, keep horses in screened areas if possible and use repellants.”


Transmission of the virus to humans causes flu-like symptoms, such as high fevers, nausea, vomiting and headaches.  Those with weakened immune systems, including the young and the elderly, can ultimately succumb to the illness.


Miguel DePaz

“It’s zoonotic, in other words, humans can get infected by the virus.  If a human gets infected that person will experience fever [and] headaches.  It’s like flu-like symptoms.  But in horses you see more of a nervous system affected.”


While isolating infected animals can prove costly BAHA, along with the Ministry of Health, has embarked on a large-scale vaccination campaign.


Miguel DePaz

“It’s very difficult to do quarantine measures, it’s costly and so what you want to do is do a massive vaccination and that way you prevent the disease from spreading.  So it’s very important for BAHA to conduct a massive vaccination and that is what we are doing.”


Isani Cayetano

“Is this a collaborative effort with the Public Health Department?”


Miguel DePaz

“Of course.  We are working hand in hand with the Ministry of Health.  Actually they form part of the vaccination teams in Little Belize.  Presently we have three teams, two in Little Belize and one in Bullet Tree, Cayo.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


The first round of vaccination started in Little Belize in the Corozal District and, in the west, the animals were vaccinated in Bullet Tree Falls. 

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 “Virus transmitted by mosquitoes threatening the health of horses and humans”

  1. Storm says:

    Is our mosquito spraying program even in operation these days? Apparently it should be.

  2. Bel Can says:

    Can this disease affect cattle as well?

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