Conjunctivitis or pink eye continues to rise. The outbreak was first noted in the Corozal District and now the number of cases has increased in the Belize District, which up to last week recorded three thousand cases. The regional health manager for the central health region, Dr. Javier Zuniga, spoke to Love News.
Dr. Javier Zuniga – Health Manager for Central Health Region
“What we’ve seen is that for the past two weeks, and I’m speaking to up to last week Friday is that we had a sudden increase in the number of cases of conjunctivitis which is telling us that there is an active outbreak at the moment within the country. That data has also revealed some interesting things. First as you all know it started off in the northern part of the country and now it has moved down the central part of the country where the Belize and Cayo district are being affected mostly at the moment. We also have cases in Stann Creek and Toledo but not as much as in the central part of the country. So what we’ve noticed is that it is affecting primarily children who are in school primary and secondary schools those are the two age groups that we’ve seen that there is an increase in the numbers as it relates to the age ranges. We have also noticed that the Belize district is more predominate in terms of the number of cases for the past two weeks and now also what we’ve noticed in the Belize district is that for the past couple days, for this beginning of the week there has been an increase, a dramatic increase in the number of cases at the health facilities within Belize district. So last week we had for example 60, 80 cases but now we are seeing over 100 cases per day at each health facility. If we look at the data for Belize district alone we will notice that like last week we had almost 2,000 cases. For this week for the past three days we’ve had almost a thousand cases so we are expecting that there will be either a similar number of cases as last week or a little bit more. Also when we look at these epidemiological profiles we are looking at an increase in the number of cases but it has not plateaued as yet so we are looking at a constant number of cases to appear sometime between this week and next week after which there will be a decrease in the number of cases. So that is what it is looking like if we speak about epidemiology.”
Dr. Melisa Diaz, Primary Health Coordinator for the Central Health Region shared some tips that can be used in order to avoid catching pink eye.
Dr. Melisa Diaz – Primary Health Coordinator for Central Health Region
“About two weeks ago we noticed that the doctors and nurses in the Belize district were making an increased diagnosis of conjunctivitis so that was the first alert given to us that there may be an upcoming outbreak and as the days progressed many more people came in with the signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis. Basically we do believe that it is a viral infection for a few reasons, one is that it’s highly contagious. We would see in the morning parents bring in a child in the afternoon the rest of the family coming in. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and its spread mainly by contact, by touching the face and eyes so if you come in contact with someone with conjunctivitis and you are not really careful and practice the hygiene methods that we’ve been talking about you may very well catch the conjunctivitis from that other person. Viruses live on surfaces, on the hands, tables, your rags, everything that you are carrying around with you so the important thing is hand washing. Well first of all isolation so if you know that you have pink eye stay away from someone else in the family, stay away from schools, your workplaces, the buses, markets, social security, banks etc. will help us to contain this outbreak. If you also have it or even if you don’t hand washing on a regular basis so getting up and washing your hands every time you touch surfaces every time you remember or using the hand sanitizer, alcohol washes and things like that to help prevent the spread. Also not touching your face or eyes. Once you touch a surface that has the virus and you touch your face or eyes that is the immediate way that you are spreading the virus to yourself so try not to touch your face or eyes. So these are just some of the advice that we are giving out to the public. Generally speaking we are seeing that the virus is affecting people for about five to seven days so if you do have the virus and it started today I would say stay away from schools, your workplace for at least five days but some people may need to be away longer and some people have had a shorter course of the infection so it’s just depends on how severe you develop the infection. Well with many diseases we look at the trend of what’s happening day to day and we do see that this week starting Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and today that we are hopeful that we may have peaked but we are looking at two to three weeks generally of an outbreak like this. Viral illnesses are what we called self-limited so they go away after a few days on their own so we are hoping that the public would take heed to avoid public places and we are hoping to get good control of this virus within another week or so.”