In September of 2012, the Ministry of Health embarked on an ambitious study to find out what's making Belizeans sick with acute gastroenteritis, what you would call a stomach flu - and to discover how much this sickness costs Belize.

Well, from a total of 3,110 households, the study says that 7.1 percent of those households reported stomach flu's during September to October 2012, which is considered the low season for the illness and April to May 2013, which is considered the high season.

The main cause were was parasites but mostly those stomach flue's were caused by Rotavirus infections.

The highest number of cases came from the Cayo District followed by the Belize District. And how much did it cost in terms of treatment and days of work lost? Well, the study says that the burden of gastro-enteritis on the public health system was estimated at 6.2 Million Belize dollars. This is much higher than the base figure previously reported by the ministry of health.

A release says these results will be used for targeted interventions in food safety.

Channel 7

Results of Foodborne Disease Research Study

Last week the Ministry of Health in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Belize and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) presented the results of the Burden of Illness (BOI) research study on Acute Gastroenteritis and causes of Food Borne Illness in Belize.

The study launched in September 2012 and was aimed at estimating the proportion of the population suffering from Acute Gastroenteritis (AGI), also known as stomach flu, at a specific time period while also estimating the economic burden the disease has on the public health system. In addition, the study investigated the more common biological agents transmitted through food and water which cause foodborne illnesses in Belize.

A total of 2,901 questionnaires were completed from the 3,110 households sampled, with a response rate of 93.6%. The results showed that the prevalence of self-reporting Acute Gastroenteritis was 7.1% for the period September – October, 2012 (low AGI season) and April – May 2013 (high AGI season). The predominant biological agents contributing to the disease and other related illnesses over the study period were parasites; however, the highest burden was found for Rotavirus infections. The highest monthly prevalence of cases of AGI came from the Cayo District followed by the Belize District. The burden of AGI on the public health system was estimated at BZ$6.2 Million annually taking into consideration basic medical services, supplies, hospitalization as well as working days lost and the need for caregiver services.

Foodborne infections are linked to a significant number of illnesses and deaths worldwide. Studies have shown that 70% of diarrheal diseases are foodborne. Research also shows that cases are not reported to the health system. The results of this survey provide evidence that the estimated health burden of AGI and other foodborne diseases are significantly higher than what is reported to the Ministry of Health. The results will be used for targeted interventions in food safety and improvements in underreporting at the laboratory level.

For more Information contact: Englebert Emmanuel Burden of Illness Coordinator/ Director of License Accreditation Ministry of Health 822-2325

Press Release- Belize Press Office- August 25th