An excruciating mosquito-borne illness that arrived less than a year ago in the Americas is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, and infecting more than 1 million people. Some cases already have emerged in the United States. While the disease called chikungunya or Chik-V usually is not fatal, the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals in the Caribbean, cut economic productivity and caused its sufferers days of pain and misery. And the count of victims is soaring. The good news for Belize is that there is no known cases in-country, yet the officials at the Ministry of Health are taking no chances and remain on high alert. Reporter Maria Novelo has a related report of the Chik-V virus in the following report.

Maria Novelo – Reporting

There are 3 diseases that were of public health importance to officials at the Ministry of Health’s press briefing this morning at the Central Health Region in Belize City. They are dengue, chikungunya and ebola diseases. And while dengue is an endemic in Belize, the Chikungunya virus has yet to be introduced in the country. Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Michael Pitts, says they remain vigilant.

Screen_Shot_2014-10-07_at_7.50.13_PMDr. Michael Pitts - Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health,

“In the case chikungunya we have to consider the other virus, for this year, we monitor dengue, we have up to the end of last week, we have reported 705 cases of dengue where about 187 cases of hemorogic dengue in the country, most of the dengue cases that we are seeing are coming from the Belize District, Cayo Distirct an Corozal District in fact at the poles of the country we have seen very few cases, in the case of Toledo they have only reported 16 cases of dengue, Stann Creek district 41 cases, Orange Walk District 12 cases, Belize District has reported 365 cases, Corozal 170 cases and Cayo District 80 cases.”

It is of note that the Chikungunya virus has moved into the entire Caribbean Chain.

Dr. Michael Pitts - Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health,

“It certainly has entered into Miami or Florida Area, they have seen Chikungunya now in Salvador, in Guatemala and in fact over this last week at least five provinces of Guatemala has reported Chikungunya, Salvador they have reported, they haven’t seen any reports out of Honduras, for Belize we have no known cases but we are actively looking for cases.”

And while Dengue mimics the Chik-V virus, authorities throughout Belize have been spraying pesticide and encouraging people to remove water containers where mosquitoes can breed.

Dr. Michael Pitts - Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health,

“We indeed got those vehicles and those vehicles has been distributed around the country, we have also conducted training and we have conducted varying activities in the different communities to try and control mosquito population, as we said in June and in January that a lot of what we need to do in the country is based on community action and the community action with respect to reducing sources for mosquito  breeding, as we go around the different communities we see a lot of areas where we need to have extra effort  in particular the cases in Belize City are coming from areas where we continue to see a lot of risky activities and a lot of clutter and receptacles that allow for the breeding of the offending mosquitso.”

Dr. Pitts says most cases of dengue, are concentrated in Southside Belize City.

Dr. Michael Pitts - Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health,

“We have divided Belize City in 9 zones and we have seen most of those cases in three zones which are primarily on what you call the South side of Belize, overtime we found that cases began increasing around June and has reached a peak about two weeks ago and we continue to monitor aggressively the number the number that we report are number that we collect from both the public and the private sector.”

You should note that some tell-tale signs of the illness include joint pain so severe it can be hard to walk or stand, and rashes. Health officials are now asking the public’s cooperation to prevent the introduction of the chik-V virus to the country, particularly those that travel to neighbouring Caribbean countries.

Dr. Michael Pitts - Director of Health Services in the Ministry of Health,

“Belize we have a lot of student that go to Jamaica to study and could expect that as they move back and forth that they too can be sources of the introduction of this new virus into Belize.”

Chikungunya is a word that comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania in eastern Africa and translates roughly as "that which bends up," in reference to the severe arthritis-like ache in joints that causes sufferers to contort with pain. It is usually accompanied by a spiking fever and headache. There have been only 113 deaths linked to the region's outbreak, according to the most recent data, but Chikungunya can be crippling.

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