The Belize Ministry of Health (MOH) is spraying all schools in San Pedro and Cay Caulker for mosquitoes this week in order to prevent the spreading of the Zika virus. The MOH is very concerned about the Zika virus spreading as the disease has now been classified as an endemic on Caye Caulker.

This does not mean that there is a Zika ‘epidemic’ in Caye Caulker; it only means that the disease is now present on the island and that it will be present for years to come, according to Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Manager, Central Health Region.

High risk groups of the virus are pregnant women and the MOH is conducting a lot of health education to try to prevent them from getting Zika. Some of these health education sessions include the giving out insect repellants for mosquito; bed nets if they live in an area that is prone to having a lot of mosquitoes and assisting the community in getting rid of all the water-holding containers that may be around the properties.

“If you can afford to put screens on your doors and windows, please do so,” commented Dr. Zuniga.

No cases have been reported on Ambergris Caye.

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ZIKA On The Rise

The Zika virus is spreading throughout the country and residents of the Belize district including the Cayes, need to be on high alert. So far there have been 10 confirmed cases of Zika on Caye Caulker and health officials say there will be more. Regional Manager for Central Health Region Dr. Javier Zuniga told us more about the Caye Caulker Zika situation among other areas. Zuniga also explained that one of the major challenges in curbing these cases is community involvement.

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Reg. Mgr., Central Health Regional
"In Caye caulker yes, we had about 10 cases being confirmed positive but we have stopped doing tests in Caye caulker unless they are high risk patients. What do we mean by high risk? Well we're speaking about pregnant women, children under 5 years old, folks over 65 years and chronic patents. These are the only people we'll be testing for Zika now. We have confirmed that there is local transmission in Caye Caulker which means that basically then it becomes endemic in one way. there will always be cases appearing now and again in the future and in some cases we might have small outbreaks but that is how infectious diseases work and vector borne diseases. We continue to do vector control activities in Caye Caulker, we monitored those closely and are also monitoring our pregnant mothers very closely because of course they are the ones most at risk. Lately we have received more results and we have 4 more positive cases for Belize District, I can say that there are 2 in san Pedro, there's 1 in Biscayne Village and there's 1 more in Belize City. the problem that we face at the moment is that we have little community participation, so we try to get the information out that people should assist in getting their yards clean, getting rid of all the water holding containers, because these are where the mosquitos breed and if people do not assist us in getting rid of these containers then it just makes the problem worse. The breeding sites for mosquitos will continue to persists, will continue to have mosquitos, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, or any type of diseases transmitted by mosquitos."

But apart from keeping the area clean, you, the resident can also help by going to the clinic to get tested if you have the symptoms. Zuniga outlined those symptoms and told us that pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant need to pay attention to these signs.

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Reg. Mgr., Central Health Regional
"The first symptom that we looked for is rash, it's a generalized rash all over the body and fever is not usually present so you'll probably have a mild fever or no fever any at all. Patients might also have red eyes, conjunctivitis, and it's a non-purulent conjunctivitis so there's no discharge from the eyes. They also suffer from joint pain and those are the major symptoms. Minor symptoms would be fatigue, having headaches, pain in the eyes, but those are less frequent. Once you know you have those symptoms, then you should visit your nearest health facility. For all women reproductive age, and who are either planning to get pregnant or are pregnant, I am advising you to visit your nearest health facility. Why? Because we want to first of all, capture this pregnancy early, we want to also monitor the pregnancy throughout the course. We want to capture any disease or any pathology that might be affecting the fetus before delivery and that is our main objective."

Other vulnerable groups are children under 5, adults over 60 and those with chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. There are about 15 confirmed cases of Zika in the Belize District.

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