Belize Braces for Swine Flu
Everyone is on the alert and keeping keen attention as to what is happening in Mexico and around the world with the Swine Flu (Influenza A H1N1). Although there are no confirmed cases in Belize (as of press time Thursday), residents of Belize have to exercise extreme caution and to know what can do to protect one’s self from getting infected.
Dr. Javier Zuniga of the San Pedro Poly Clinic mentioned to us that although there are many cases of flu, none seem to be the Swine flu (as of press time Thursday). “As soon as someone starts experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended for that person to receive immediate medical treatment,” stated Dr. Zuniga. “In Belize there is no way for doctors to check whether one has the common flu or the swine flu virus.”
“Studies will have to be done abroad and there is no vaccine for the influenza. But one can practice basic hygiene, such as washing of hands frequently and it is also recommended to use face masks as well,” stated Dr. Zuniga. “It is better to be safe than sorry, and we urge anyone with the flu to seek medical attention.”
Many local residents have rushed to the Poly Clinic to receive flu shots, which were given out for free, but Dr. Zuniga stated that the regular flu shot is not effective in preventing the infection of the swine flu virus. People need to understand that doctors in Belize will not be able to diagnose if a person has been infected with the swine flu virus. Again, just take the precautionary preventative methods and visit the doctor upon the first symptoms of the flu appear.
Although thousands of Belizeans and Mexican pass through both border points every day, as of press time there were no plans to close the border. Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Edwards recommends anyone with plans to travel to Chetumal, Mexico, or beyond, to suspend them unless it is for an emergency. Here in San Pedro, we know of many residents who have cancelled their trips and vacations to our neighboring country for a precaution.
At the Belize/Mexico border employees have been issued to wear gloves and face masks for their own protections and word from nearby border city of Chetumal is that residents are wearing masks out in public. Cases of the swine flu viral infections have been confirmed in Merida and Cancun, but not in Chetumal as of press time.
But while the Ministry’s education campaign is good for prevention methods, the very imminent possibility of an outbreak of swine flu in Belize will be the ultimate test of readiness. For severe cases, the Ministry of Health will have access to the prescription drug Tamiflu which has proven to be very effective to treat the symptoms of the swine virus. At present there is only a small supply of the drug available in Belize, but health officials say an adequate supply will be provided by PAHO and the World Health Organization.
Dr. Michael Pitts, Dir. Of Health Services, says that “Tamiflu was being stockpiled in Panama for the region of the Americas and confirmed that they are able to get access dosages to treat 6,000 persons in the country of Belize through that facility. “When we look at that, we think that might be a reasonable amount to have for the country. ”he stated.
Swine Flu Symptoms
* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of other strains of human flu, including fever over 38°C/100.4°F, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A few patients have reported that they also suffered from diarrhea and vomiting.
* The symptoms and transmission of the swine flu from human to human is much like seasonal flu, commonly fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is believed to be spread between humans through coughing or sneezing of infected people and touching something with the virus on it and then touching their own nose or mouth.
* Swine flu cannot be spread by pork products, since the virus is not transmitted through food. The swine flu in humans is most contagious during the first five days of the illness although some people, most commonly children, can remain contagious for up to ten days.
Prevention and helpful tips
* Recommendations to prevent infection by the virus consist of the standard personal precautions against influenza. This includes frequent washing of hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after being out in-public.
* People should avoid touching their mouth, nose or eyes with their hands unless they've washed their hands. If people do cough, they should either, cough into a tissue and throw it in the garbage immediately, cough into their elbow, or, if they cough in their hand, they should wash their hands immediately.
* Avoid places where there are lots of people like, super markets, malls, clinics, etc… if you have to go to these places it is recommended to wear surgical mask and wash hands after coming back from these places.
* Consume fruits and vegetables that have vitamin A and C like oranges, watermelons, tomatoes, limes, bananas, apples, grapes, carrots, corn, mangos, guavas, papayas.
Milk, eggs and liver also have vitamin A.
* Clean rooms with white distilled vinegar (half vinegar –half water) may use only vinegar. Place it in an all purpose sprayer.
* Boil white distilled vinegar to disinfect the entire house.