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Screen_Shot_2014-06-26_at_8.17.14_PMA painful mosquito-borne virus called Chikungunya, which is common in Africa and Asia has advanced quickly throughout the Caribbean region in a span of several months, raising the prospect that a once-distant illness will become entrenched throughout the region including Belize. The closest suspected cases were confirmed in neighboring El Salvador. And as such, health officials have stepped up their prevention measures and heightened their preparedness. Today officials of the Ministry of health gave the media an update on the disease. Reporter Maria Novelo reports.

Maria Novelo – Reporting

Following the continued regional outbreak of the chikungunya or Chik-V virus, local health officials and personnel are on high alert here in Belize. While there are no known cases of Chik V in the country, neighbouring El Salvador has seen an emergence in suspected cases. Dr. Michael Pitts is Director of Health Services for the MOH.

DR. Michael Pitts – Director of Health Services

“Over last week and early this week Salvador, member country of SICA has reported twelve hundred cases.”

The chikungunya virus is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito that also transmits dengue. And in anticipation for its inevitable arrival to Belize, the Ministry has been taking proactive, preventative measures to ensure safety for the public.

DR. Michael Pitts – Director of Health Services

“We have sought to strengthened our vector control activities and basically this is to ratchet up what we have been doing for dengue knowing fully well that the similar things that we have been doing for dengue in fact controls the vector that can contribute to chikungunya in our mist, the objective is to mitigate, we can’t eradicate mosquitos but we can control the population to tolerable levels.”

As part of their surveillance activities for Chik-V, Dr. Francis Murray explained the clinical features of the Chik V disease.

Dr. Francis Murray - Focal Point Communicable Diseases, Ministry of Health

“Chikungunya as an emerging disease present itself with high fever or more than 38 degrees, severe arthritis or what is refer to bending illness, this arthritis is characteristic that affects mostly the small joints; those of the wrist, the hands but it also may affect the larger joints and has a characteristic that it set to be migratory, the rash that it presents is much more severe than that of the dengue.”

Vector Control Chief of Operation, Kim Bautista, says the budget for control and support has tripled this year prompting the procurement of support tools and equipment.

Kim Bautista – Vector Control Chief

“The procurement of vehicles to the tune of just about seven hundred thousand Belize dollars, foggier just about a hundred thousand Belize dollars and also other activities on going such as the training of health workers and also the training of vector control personnel on a whole, this will allow us to expand our coverage and our services to out of urban areas into many rural areas especially in terms of ULV spraying and the prevention and control of mosquito borne disease.”

And while Belize has perfect weather conditions for these mosquitoes to multiply, officials are encouraging the general public to do their part since this is an ‘imported’ disease.

Kim Bautista – Vector Control Chief

“We need to encourage the citizenry on a whole especially those travelling to those endemic countries to take every necessary precaution in terms of  sleeping on the bed nets and the use repellents and the monitoring of  the mosquito breeding sites within your yards on whole so we need to be cognisant of the fact that what is contributing to this quick transmission and so those are basically the major activities that are currently on going for the operational aspect for prevention and control.”

Kim Bautista – Vector Control Chief

“I make an appeal to the general public to their share, we tend to leave it and say it is the responsibility of the ministry of health it isn’t the public need to do their fair share.”

Officials are focused on improving the logistics for the Chik-V support in Belize with the acquisition of vehicles, and ULV machines. They will be fully commissioned to target all urban and rural areas of the country.

DR. Michael Pitts – Director of Health Services


“Those vehicles are now in country and will be released by the agencies to us sometime over next week, this is very timely, we are now entering the full rainy season so I think it is very strategic and timely that we have these vehicles and we will bring them into full commission over the next week or so.  In addition to that we have acquired six ULV machine additional ULV machine, the last time we spoke we had sixteen functional so we are now augmenting those to where we have twenty two this means that we will be able to have machines in all district towns operating both in the urban and in the rural areas and in addition have machines operating in San Pedro and Caye Caulker.”

As the rainy season progresses, MOH will be expanding its larvicidal treatments throughout the country. MN for CTV!

The ministry will be continuing the fogging cycle periodically in the areas that are considered most vulnerable.

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