In-country rabies diagnosis now available in Belize
Published on Thursday, July 12, 2007
BELMOPAN, Belize: Belize now has the capability to identify the source of rabies virus. The in-country facility is capable of diagnosing rabies in animals and pinpointing the source of the virus causing rabies. This has been accomplished through the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA).
Belize has a long history of rabies. The Annual Reports of the Ministry of Agriculture report cases in cattle in the Cayo District in the 1930s. Rabies has also been reported in other animals: horses, pigs, dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes and man.
The rabies virus has been sourced from dogs, foxes and vampire bats, with the vampire bat being the most common source of the virus, particularly in cattle. Records show that the vampire bat was the source of the rabies virus in a dog from the Orange Walk District in the mid 1980’s.
Given that rabid animals can transfer the disease to people and people have been affected in the past in Belize, there has always been a great need to diagnose rabies. Suspect samples used to be sent to Guatemala, then Panama and, recently, Guatemala again.
Though BAHA can now diagnose rabies, samples will continue to be sent to regional laboratories for quality control.
The strengthening of BAHA’s laboratory capability was initiated by PAHO in the late nineties, when they donated a fluorescent microscope to the veterinary diagnostic laboratory.
Mexico, through a bilateral project, completed the process through training of laboratory technicians, both in Mexico and Belize. In the last month, Mexico transferred the technology to Belize, sending three scientists from SAGARPA and INIFAP to conduct diagnostic testing for the rabies virus and the source of the virus.
Thus, BAHA’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Central Farm, Cayo District can report that its testing in Belize has shown that the vampire bat is responsible for the rabies cases reported in cattle in Cayo District in 2005 and 2006.
BAHA’s veterinary laboratory, with continued support from government and partners in development, will further strengthen its diagnostic capability for rabies, as well as for other animal diseases. BAHA has committed to ensure that animals in Belize will routinely vaccinated for rabies.