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Ministry of Health continues Zika virus awareness campaign

Belize remains free of the Zika Virus. Out of the three cases that Belize has sent for testing, one has been returned and the results show that it is negative for the virus. That case was from the Belize District and now health officials are still waiting on the results for the other two which are from the Cayo District. Today officials from the Ministry of Health visited the Belize City Council as part of their countrywide sensitization tour on the ZIKA Virus. The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (pink eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Dr. Javier Zuniga, the Regional Health Manager for the Central Health Region told Love News what the Ministry of Health is hoping to prevent an outbreak in Belize.

Dr. Javier Zuniga – Regional Health Manager

“So on our part we are already doing what we call surveillance in the sense that we are trying to first identify anybody who might have the infection. So primarily right now we are trying to focus on people who travel to these endemic areas and if they do appear with symptoms after a certain period of time then we would do lab testing. So that would be the second phase, lab testing and this lab testing is done in CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) in Trinidad and Tobago and if we do detect a case that is positive and confirmed then that puts us into a different alert phase within the national plan. The third part is for prevention so vector control activities and we are trying to collaborate right now with the City Council to be able to involve the community, because if the community is not involved and they do not play their part in preventing the transmission of the virus and this is in regards to vector control, we are trying to control the breeding sites for the particular mosquito. Once we can control the breeding of these mosquitos we can control the transmission of the virus and with the city council then we are trying to get collaboration in cleaning up yards, drains, having the community participate in the prevention process as well and on a whole educating the people so they know how to prevent the mosquito from biting them in the first place and what to do in the event of an outbreak what to do to prevent it from critically impacting us.”

There are several ways to prevent infections and Mayor Darrell Bradley told Love News that this effort needs the participation of city residents.

Javier Alpuche – Senior Public Health Inspector

“Keep your yards clean, get rid of all containers that can hold water because any container that holds water is a potential breeding site for the mosquitos be it cans, bottles coconut shells, tires we need to get rid of those. We need to make that extra effort in cleaning the drain in front of our yards. Mosquitos may be breeding in the drains as well so by keeping it clean we are preventing mosquitos from breeding there.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“What about the type of clothes you wear? The mosquito nets?”

Javier Alpuche – Senior Public Health Inspector

“Like I said our focus is to control the mosquito population and recommending to the public to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. How do you go about doing that? Well you do that by using repellent if you are outside, use long sleeve shirts, long pants, basically use bed nets as well and that will help in terms of the mosquitoes biting you all.

Mayor Darrell Bradley

“My view is that city council needs to do more in terms of the enforcement. We have very clear sanitation laws and regulations in place, there is the power for finding and prosecuting people, I think that the city council has in a sense not been as effective as it could be in terms of enforcing but I think that we need to have proactive citizenry. The idea with something like this is that in order of our citizenry to be safe and in order for us to say that Belize remains a Zika free country there needs to be a community response and individuals need to recognize their role in ensuring that we are Zika free so that it in my view it’s not something that is optional, it is something that if we want a healthy society we need to do things that will create a healthy society and we are asking people in relation to their responsibility to do things which are their legal obligation and their civic obligation any way and in the longer run it will make for a society that is healthier.”

According to Senior Health Inspector, Javier Alpuche, there is no vaccine to prevent or specific medicine to treat Zika infections.