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#509207 - 11/17/15 05:18 AM Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
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Dengue and Chikungunya aren't the only diseases you have to worry about catching when a mosquito bites you. Now there's Zika, another virus that you can get from the same Aedes aegypti mosquito. There were a few cases of Zika in Brazil and Columbia and now the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has confirmed, five cases of Zika virus in the Caribbean. More worryingly, there are concerns that there might be cases in El Salvador. Now, Zika is called Dengue's first cousin and the symptoms are similar. But Chief of Operations for the Vector Control Program at the Ministry of Health Kim Bautista told us that there is no reason to be alarmed because there are no confirmed cases in Belize nor in neighboring countries. Bautista told us more about this virus and what can be done to keep safe.

Kim Bautista, Chief of Operations - Vector Control Program
"Zika virus is a virus belonging to a member of the group of viruses which includes the more common dengue virus. The West Nile virus is also a member of that family of viruses and also yellow fever. So it's a pretty old disease. The name Zika comes from the Zika Forest in Uganda where this virus was discovered in monkeys in the wild and thereafter between the 60s and the 70s it was detected in humans. So it's a virus that they've seen small outbreaks in certain parts of Asia and Africa over the years. Zika came on radar last year when I believe somewhere around the time that they had the FIFA World Cup - they had seen some cases in Brazil, thereafter they had seen some cases in Colombia. Over the past year they also confirmed cases in the Dominican Republic and in Surinam and more recently El Salvador has had some concerns about this disease and had sent some possible samples to CDC in Atlanta."

"First of all it is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti Mosquito which Belizeans are familiar with. And so now you are dealing with a mosquito that could transmit both dengue, Chikungunya and now Zika. So one mosquito with the possibility of transmitting several diseases. So with that those 3 diseases they have similar symptoms; being fever, headaches, pain in the eyes, joint pain, rash and swelling of the joints. With Zika what we've seen in the region is that those symptoms also come along with some conjunctivitis. So those are some of the symptoms that you could look out for. In terms of vector control and prevention and control - it's basically the same efforts, simply because it's the same mosquito we are dealing with. So we encourage the public again to ensure that drains in front of their premises are free flowing. Try to drain out stagnant water from their yards, containers that hold water mosquitoes could breed in to get rid of those. We don't have any clinical cases in country. As a matter of fact none of the countries within Central America has confirmed, but because of the experience that we see it, the Chikungunya virus spread throughout the region within less than 12 months. The possibility is there that the same could happen with Zika."

Again, there is no reason to be alarmed because there are no confirmed cases in Belize and those samples that were sent from El Salvador are not confirmed. A part from that, there are no reports that anyone has died from the Zika virus so it is not as serious as Dengue and Chikungunya.

So while this virus is relatively new to this region, Dengue and Chikungunya are not and Bautista told us Belize City has seen dramatic improvements in terms of cases.

Kim Bautista, Chief of Operations - Vector Control Program
"We've quite a bit of success in Belize City this year. We've seen quite a turnaround in Belize City which was traditionally one of the areas where you would have most dengue cases. This year we tend to see more cases in Corozal and the Cayo District. As a matter of fact, we've done quite a bit of activities in Belize City. As recent as the flooding, we had teamed up with PAHO and certain areas in Southside we had distributed I believe it was mosquito coils, family insect repellent and also several aerosols. Basically to prevent mosquito bites in those areas."

Bautista told us there has been at least a 40% decrease in Dengue cases in Belize City but an increase in Corozal and in the Cayo District.

Channel 7

#510681 - 01/15/16 04:52 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

ZIKA Surrounding Belize, But Not In It

Zika: There are no confirmed cases in Belize but there are cases all around us in Central America. In a New York Times article it states that cases have been confirmed in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and that this virus can be linked to brain damage in unborn babies. That's very frightening and based on that link, the US Centers for Disase Control may warn pregnant women against travelling to countries where ZIKA has been detected. Today we spoke with Epidemiologist Dr. Marvin Manzanero via phone and he told us there is no cause for concern in Belize and they are working on measures to detect and test for this virus.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero - Epidemiologist, Ministry of Health
"We are aware that neighboring countries, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras has confirm cases although none of them have documented sustained transmission cases among their population. So they have been isolated cases and in most instances have been imported cases. So no country in the region we are aware of in our immediate vicinity having sustained transmission. It calls for concerned for us in 2 forms. 1) Is detecting that we have and it's just a question of when we detect the first case. It may already be here for all we know and the other cause and we are following that i9s the potential link to micro cephalic cases. Which seems to be highly associated to the Zika Virus. Although if you read the medical literature even the Brazilian government was the one reporting more micro cephalic cases. It seems that in some instances they haven't found that the micro cephalic cases are link to the Zika infection. So that would be a cause for concern. For the Belize context, we are looking at areas where we can do testing because the country doesn't have an in country capacity to do testing just met with the CDC regional advisor 2 days ago we did mention to her the possibility of accessing the institute laboratory in panama for potential testing of cases for us and internally for us, we are going to be looking on the lookout for any potential increases in micro cephalic cases."

Again, we stress that no ban or travel restrictions have been put in place for pregnant women and there have been no confirmed cases of Zika in Belize. Health officials say they will keep on monitoring this situation in our neighboring countries and in Belize. Manzanero told us that the signs and symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to Dengue and Chikungunya so they would test for those first and if those tests are negative then they would have to send those samples abroad to test for Zika.

Channel 7

Things that can be done to help prevent Zika Virus and Chikungunya a educational campaign to get rid of all standing water in yards. Cooking oil place in vats and ponds. Fogging or spraying at midday plants in yards and dark cool spaces to kill mosquito while sleeping. Use of long sleeves and long pants in swamp areas. Screens and Mosquito nets. Neme tree seedlings available cheap for planting in yards.

#510686 - 01/15/16 05:50 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,310
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
Already in US

Belize based travel specialist
#511208 - 01/30/16 05:38 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Update from the BTB re: Zika Virus

The Belize Tourism Board continues to receive updates from the Ministry of Heath regarding the Zika virus. Getting you updated information as it becomes available is a top priority. In the meantime, below you will find:

1. Key Message for you to utilize in communicating with your visitors and guests.

2. Update from the Ministry of Health

3. General information about the virus as well as general questions you or your visitors may have about its impact.

KEY MESSAGE: At this time, it is important to note that the Zika virus has not spread to Belize. As a precaution for visitors traveling to the Belize, you are encouraged to wear long sleeves and long pants and/or liberally apply insect repellent when appropriate. We remain in contact with the Ministry of Health and the Belize Tourism Board regarding the Zika virus and will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Update from the Ministry of Health (MOH)

The Ministry of Health has been sensitizing the media and has sent out three (3) press releases on the Zika Virus, dating back to November of last year.

Note also that the MOH is utilizing the same plans that were developed for Dengue and Chikungunya, as they are all transmitted by the same vector.

The MOH is aware of the ongoing news stories and queries via media (social and printed) but the following is the updated position on Belize:

- There hasn't been a confirmed case of Zika in Belize

- We are looking at avenues for testing for Zika beyond sending the samples to Trinidad (so far the Gorgas Institute in Panama has offered to help)

- Our efforts in terms of spraying and vector control measures continue

- As soon as we have any other major information, we will be passing that along to all relevant stakeholders

We will also be providing relevant updates on our social media pages.

General information about the ZIKA virus

1. What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually very mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe symptoms requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

2. How does the virus spread?

It spreads exclusively through mosquitos. These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

3. Where have outbreaks occurred?

Outbreaks of Zika have sporadically occurred for many years in areas of Africa and Southeast Asia. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries. It has been found in 14 Central and South American countries: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela. It has recently surfaced in several states in the USA.

4. Why is it of concern now?

There's been growing evidence linking Zika infection in pregnant women to a rare condition called microcephaly, in which the child is born with a birth defect where the head is smaller than normal and the brain has not developed properly. U.S. health officials are heading to Brazil, where there's been a recent spike in the birth defect, to further study the actual risk to pregnant women.

There is no medicine or vaccine for the Zika virus. Hospitalizations are rare and no deaths have been reported as a result of the virus.

5. What you can do to limit the spread of the virus:

· Stay informed about the Zika situation in your country, and in other Caribbean countries.

· Provide staff and guests with information on Zika so that they are aware of the signs and symptoms, how Zika is transmitted and how it can be prevented.

· Consider placing and having insect repellents in every room, or having them available for purchase.

· Avoid storing water in outdoor containers to prevent them from becoming mosquito breeding sites.

· Cover water tanks or reservoirs so that mosquitoes do not get in.

· Avoid the build-up of garbage, which can act as a breeding site for mosquitoes. Put garbage in closed plastic bags and keep it in closed containers.

· Uncover/unblock gutters and drains to release stagnant water.

· Install mosquito screening on windows and doors to help reduce contact between mosquitoes and guests.

· Consider supplying guests with bed nets in areas where the sleeping quarters are exposed to the outdoors.

Yours in Tourism,
Belize Tourism Board

#511233 - 01/30/16 01:18 PM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,310
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
80% of people infected with zika will be asymptomatic or won't feel bad enough to see a doc, let alone get tested.

Belize based travel specialist
#511246 - 01/31/16 07:11 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Katie Valk]  
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,980
ragman Offline
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Exactly. Now let's use a little commonsense. Every country surrounding Belize has cases of Zika. Offshore Islands like Cayman & Puerto Rico have Zika. Belize claims no known cases however it admits that it can not easily test for Zika. What a surprise.

Personally as much as I'd love to see them I advised my son and his pregnant wife not to visit in Feb. like they had planned. They agreed. If she wasn't pregnant well OK but they have already seen enough drama in their lives and a life time is a long time to care for a disabled child. Overly cautious, probably.

Somewhere on a beach in Belize
#511247 - 01/31/16 07:56 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,310
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
No surprise. Why test for something if you are feeling well and asymptomatic? Or just feeling a bit off?

Belize based travel specialist
#511304 - 02/03/16 05:15 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

ZIKA Virus Can Now Be Sexually Transmitted

Reports coming out of the Centre for Disease Control and several international media outlets are that the transmission of the ZIKA virus has gone from being a disease gotten from a species of the Aedes Egypti mosquito to a disease that can now be had through sexual transmission. According to the Washington Post the first case of a person infected via sexual activity has been confirmed in Houston, Texas, USA. In the online article by The Washington Post, “the Dallas County Health and Human Services department said the patient was infected with the virus after having sexual contact with a sick person who returned from a country where ZIKA virus is present.

Dallas authorities said they received confirmation that the patient was infected from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. End of quote. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has issued a statement saying that a disease linked to the Zika virus in Latin America poses a global public health emergency requiring a united response. That disease linked to the ZIKA virus is one where babies are born with under-developed brains and is called MICROCEPHALY. The World Health Organization alert has put ZIKA in the same category of concern as EBOLA and they have declared the ZIKA virus a global public health emergency on Monday, following a recommendation by a committee of independent experts.

The Centre for Disease Control is reportedly now saying that the best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites AND to avoid exposure to semen from someone who has been exposed to Zika virus or has been ill from Zika virus infection. The name, ZIKA comes from Uganda where the virus was first noted in 1947. In the 1950s, the ZIKA virus was only present in the area from Africa to Asia. By 2014, the ZIKA virus spread eastward across to the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia and in 2015 it carried on in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America where the ZIKA outbreak had reached pandemic levels.

Aside from issuing preventative measures to take some months ago, the local health authorities have not said much about the ZIKA virus despite the presence of the disease in all of Belize’s neighbouring countries.


SICA Member States Meet to Address Emergency Health Issues Associated with Spread of Zika Virus in the Region

On Tuesday, February 2, 2016, officials from the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs of Belize participated in a regional videoconference organized by the Government of Honduras, current Presidency Pro-Tempore of the Central American Integration System (SICA), to discuss the regional health implications from the Zika virus.

The objective of the meeting was to coordinate regional positions and actions to ameliorate the number of infections and agree on a sustained action plan to work towards the eradication of the Zika Virus.

The Pan-American Health Organization has committed to providing all its resources to assist the region in its response to eradicate the Zika Virus and its possible correlation to microcephaly that has been affecting newborn babies of mothers infected with the virus. Research is also being conducted to ascertain a possible link to the Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The Ministry of Health has engaged in a country-wide campaign of spraying and assisting in the removal of possible stagnant water that are breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is also a carrier for Dengue fever, Malaria, and Chikungunya. The Ministry is also finalizing the national preparedness and response plan to combat the Zika virus.

The Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister Health, headed the Delegation of Belize. He was accompanied by Dr. Ramon Figueroa, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Health; H.E. Lawrence Sylvester, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services, and other officials from the Ministry of Health.

Representatives of the Ministry of Health and PAHO on Belize's Plan for Zika

7 Facts You May Want to Know About the Zika Virus

Health experts and organizations around the world have admitted they know very little about the Zika virus, even though it was first discovered almost 60 years ago. Some experts are linking the concerning spread of the virus today with climate change and the El Niño phenomenon.

However, an Indian pharmaceutical firm claimed Wednesday to have developed the world’s first vaccine against mosquito-borne Zika.

"On Zika, we were probably the first vaccine company in the world to file a vaccine candidate patent about nine months ago," Krishna Ella, chairperson and of Bharat Biotech Ltd told NDTV.

The WHO recently warned that this year about 4 million cases of Zika will affect the Americas.

Germany recently claimed it developed the first test to determine if somebody has the virus.

In the meantime, here are eight facts you may not know about the virus.

1. What is Zika?

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that was first discovered in 1947. Named after the Zika forest in Uganda where it was discovered.

It is largely transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes but can also be spread through sexual and blood contact, including transfusions though this is very rare.

So far there has been three cases of sexual transmission—the first one being in 2008 when a doctor returned to Colorado from Senegal and passed it to his wife.

According to NPR, the doctor had detected blood in his semen prior to having sexual intercourse with his wife.

While the virus isn’t anything new, this is the largest outbreak of the it in recorded history.

2. What are the symptoms?

The symptoms, which are typically mild, include low-grade fever, rash (flat with small red bumps), joint pain, headache, muscle pain, and conjunctivitis. Due to the symptoms, Zika is often misdiagnosed as dengue fever, another mosquito-borne illness, according to the World Health Organization.

3. Is there a cure?

There is no cure, vaccine or treatment for Zika virus. Most medicines are aimed at treating the symptoms not the actual disease.

Mosquito control including bug sprays, nets, water treatments, and the removal of standing water is, for the time being, the best way to combat the virus. Also, avoiding unprotected sexual contact with someone who may have been exposed.

4. Who is at greatest risk?

Pregnant women. Nothing is conclusive yet, but Brazil and international health experts are analyzing the link between babies born with microcephaly and the fact their mothers were apparently infected with the virus during pregnancy. Also, some patients seem to have developed the Guillain Barre Syndrome or GBS, a neurological disorder that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system, leading to muscle disorders and even paralysis, according to the WHO.

5. Where has Zika been detected?

Cases have already been confirmed in at least 24 countries. Pan American Health Organization warned the Zika will spread to the 33 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and southern parts of the United States. The WHO also warned Zika is “spreading explosively,” and has called it a public health emergency of international proportions. Brazil is the epicenter of the outbreak. At least 3,700 cases of microcephaly have been reported. In Colombia, at least 2,000 pregnant women have been diagnosed with Zika. In total, there are at least 20,000 cases there.

This Wednesday, five cases were reported in Germany in people who had recently been to Latin America. In the United States, cases have now been detected as far as Georgia

6. What is the response for far?

Caribbean and Central America are responding to the outbreak, encouraging women not to get pregnant (also sparking debate considering abortion rules).

A regional meeting was held today in Uruguay to discuss how to respond to the crisis.

Possible solutions have included using nuclear radiation to zap sperm of male mosquitoes, combined with other strategies to stem the spread of the virus

7. What is the cause?

The Zika virus is connected to climate change. As global temperatures rise and there are changes in precipitation patterns, there are more environments where mosquitos that carry the virus to survive.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control just released this map showing the countries that have detected Zika. They obviously failed to include the United States and Germany.


#511474 - 02/08/16 04:33 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
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10 reasons you shouldn’t cancel your Caribbean trip over Zika

The spread of the Zika virus in the Americas, including countries in the Caribbean, and the possible link to birth defects such as microcephaly (babies with small heads) have left many people – especially pregnant women – wondering whether they should cancel their holidays to the region.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and individual countries have advised their pregnant citizens not to, and some airlines and cruise lines are offering refunds and/free penalty-free changes.

But the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) say there is no reason to panic or to put travel plans on hold.

Here are 10 reasons why, based on a list of Frequently Asked Questions the two have put out.

1. The Zika outbreak has been concentrated in Brazil and South America, with approximately 1.5 million suspected cases in Brazil. By contrast, there have been around 200 suspected cases in the Caribbean, spread across about a dozen of the region’s 30-plus countries. Most individuals who contracted the virus have already recovered.

2. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not issued any travel restrictions to affected countries.

3. It’s too early to tell but all indications are that there are very few cancellations as a result of Zika. The Caribbean set a record for visitor arrivals in 2015 and all indications point to continued growth and its popularity as one of the world’s most desirable warm weather destinations.

4. The WHO and other health agencies, including the CDC, have said that Zika symptoms for the vast majority of people are mild and last two to seven days. In fact, according to the WHO and the CDC, four in five people who contract the virus never know they got it, and if you get it once you develop immunity for life.

5. The WHO itself has stated several times that it has no proof of a link between Zika and microcephaly. In fact, there is other research that suggests there is no link and that there are other causes of the suspected rise in cases in Brazil. There are also no reported cases of microcephaly linked to Zika outbreaks in other countries or regions. Also, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), microcephaly is extremely rare in the Caribbean and there are no cases linked to Zika.

6. Based on the evidence, the Zika virus does not pose an extraordinary threat to visitors to the Caribbean. The CTO and CHTA say they will continue to closely monitor developments and if fresh evidence emerges that suggests otherwise, it will advise accordingly.

7. You just need to travel sensibly and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself against insect bites, including mosquito bites, in very much the same way you would on any holiday in any tropical country. Visitors are encouraged to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using long lasting repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 on exposed skin. Many visitors come to the region to enjoy the sunshine, so they’re advised to use both sunscreen and insect repellent. Apply the sunscreen first, then the repellent.

8. Caribbean countries and hotels continue proactive measures similar to those used to combat other mosquito-borne viruses. Staff and guests are being provided with the necessary information so they become familiar with how it can be prevented, how it can be transmitted, its signs and symptoms. Insect repellent containing DEET is being placed in hotel rooms, or made easily available for purchase. Many CTO and CHTA member countries undertake national clean-up campaigns to try to eradicate breeding grounds, while an increasing number of hotels install mosquito screens on windows and/or supply guests with bed nets in areas where the sleeping quarters are exposed to the outdoors

9. The CTO and CHTA remain in close contact with CARPHA to monitor and research the Zika cases in the Caribbean and to communicate prevention and control measures to residents and visitors, while the health authorities in member countries are taking the necessary steps to limit the number of new cases.

10. The Caribbean remains open for business and safe for travel. The CTO and CHTA say they will continue to work closely with CARPHA to assess the situation, but they encourage visitors to continue with their travel plans to the Caribbean and follow the advice and precautions issued by the WHO, similar to those which are provided to travelers to most tropical destinations.

#511511 - 02/10/16 04:48 AM Re: Now Zika, Latest Mosquito Borne Malady [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,967
Marty Offline
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Zika & The Plan to Keep It Out of Belize

The Ministry of Health has activated its national plan to keep Belize Zika free. Today Health Professionals held a sensitization meeting at the Inspiration Center to discuss the possible threats of Zika. On Monday, The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency after an outbreak of the virus has been confirmed in 26 countries of the America's - but Belize is not one of them. Still, it's all around us, in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.

And so, although, Belize presently has no confirmed cases of Zika, three samples have been sent for testing, and Director of Health Services Dr. Marvin Manzanero told the media today that they have initiated their response plan and have engaged all health regions across the country.

Of course, ZIKA is spread by mosquitoes and a major component of any response has to be vector control. Chief of Operations in the Vector Control Program also highlighted key geographical areas of concern in Belize.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Dir. of Health Services
"So in essence what we did was we've revisited the plan, we've completed the plan. That is now going to be shared electronically with all the health regions and each health region will now have to do duplication of that training or sensitization session at their local level and I know Dr. Manzanero's epidemiology and surveillance team will start visiting the different regions as from tomorrow. In terms of getting the surveillance committees activated, we have started sending samples to CARPHA. We have so far sent 3 samples to Trinidad and Tobago. We have gotten one result back and that result was negative for dengue, chikungunya, zika. We still have no confirmed cases in Belize."

Kim Bautista, Chief Ops. Vector Control Program
"We are basically highlighting in the national preparedness response and preparedness plan for them to go back and look at their data. They already know the little hotspots within their district for example, if you look at the Cayo District, you might be able to single out certain areas within Santa Elena or maybe Las Flores, Salvapan, San Martin, Maya Mopan, St. Matthews, Camalote and even within Belize City, within certain areas within the Southside. So areas within San Pedro for example, San Mateo, San Juan and these areas. So countrywide I believe that the public health department knows the areas that are at risk and so what we have been trying to do is for them to work with the local municipalities and stakeholders to not only disseminate health information messages and how to prevent the mosquito bites, but to start actively organizing themselves in terms of cleanup campaigns."

As it relates to the 3 samples - the first sample that came back negative for Zika is from a person who had traveled to Honduras, the second was from one who lived in an area where there are frequent travelers to Central America and the last sample came from a pregnant woman. The results of the 2 remaining samples should be in by Friday. Now, let's be clear on what Zika is. It's a virus spread principally through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and pink eye. The symptoms are usually mild, and can last from a few days to a week. The greatest threat is to pregnant women because Zika has caused birth defects in Brazil.

Safe Sex and Zika

But, it's not just mosquitoes, health officials also discussed the possibility of the virus being sexually transmitted. This is after someone from Texas was reportedly infected with Zika after having sex with someone who had just travelled from Venezuela. The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning for men who have traveled to Zika-affected areas to abstain from sex with their partner -especially if she is pregnant. Today health professionals issued that same warning to Belizeans.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Dir. of Health Services
"The recommendation I guess would be we want to have protected sex. We were asked earlier this morning to put any particular precautionary messages outside. I guess we can continue to try to engage people in terms of condom use. I am not so sure how effective we will be in terms of zika, because I don't know if we have been effective in HIV for example, in promoting condom use. So I don't know if zika would be any trigger for people to start using condoms as a means of protection or as a means on contraception, which is what is being documented. I think our message will be sexual transmission is a possible form of getting zika. If you have been in an area where zika is documented, but I don't know if we will implement specific measures beyond the messages that we can share."

Dr. Natalia Largaespada-Beer, MCH Survellance
"Persons traveling to communities with active zika virus transmission especially men. When they come back to the country, they should be utilizing condom for at least 28 days. If the person travel to a community with active transmission of zika virus and confirmed to have an infection by zika virus then the recommendation is to utilize a condom for 6 months. That is what is documented and recommended so far by the World Health Organization."

The Microcephaly Threat

But while there is only that one Texas case so far with sexual transmission, the greatest risk - as you heard earlier - is to pregnant women. Specifically, Zika has been linked to a terrible birth defect called microcephaly, which causes babies heads and brains to stop growing to full size.

In Brazil where the Zika outbreak is the most aggressive, 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control in the US has issued a first-of-its-kind travel advisory for Zika, asking pregnant women to consider postponing their visits to countries where the virus has been detected.

But Manzanero told us that more thorough research and testing needs to be done to confirm if Zika is directly linked to Microcephaly.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Dir. of Health Services
"There is not an establishment direct link. There seems to be something that needs further investigation. Microcephaly if you notice has been primarily documented in a certain geographic area of Brazil. But I was having a discussion and if you also read some of the articles over the weekend, Colombia has close to 30,000 cases of zika, but they had not have any Microcephaly cases in that population. So even that would warrant further investigation why in a certain geographic area it was more. If there was any other factor and I don't think any other country outside of Brazil has had any cases of Microcephaly linked to zika."

How To Stay Zika Free

Now you have heard what the Ministry's plan is to address Zika and the other health complications associated with the virus, but what can you do to protect yourself from getting infected? That was the main message of today's meeting. Health Surveillance Representative Dr. Natalia Largaespada- Beer told us that the public also holds the responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Natalia Largaespada-Beer, MCH Survellance
"One of the take home messages, to team that was at the meeting earlier, the planning session is prevention. There is nothing we can do once a person is bitten by the mosquito with the zika virus. But there is a lot we can do to prevent that to happen."

"For pregnant women, what we are recommending is, or women that wants to become pregnant, the recommendations are to use clothing that can cover the majority of the body parts during the day and in the night. To avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes, the use of repellents. There are specific names of repellents that persons need to look at. Keep the yard clean. That is nothing new. We have to keep the yards free to breeding sites. Use of bed net. Not only in the night. It is recommended now if you take a nap in the day, sleep under a bed net to avoid being bitten by these mosquitoes that circulate during the day. And most importantly for women and for their partners or other family members - to avoid traveling to communities with confirmed case of active transmission of the zika virus."

Again, there has been no confirmed case of Zika in Belize - and the results of the 2 remaining samples that were sent to CARPHA should be in by Friday. To be safe, those who develop a fever, other flu like symptoms and rash - somewhat similar to the symptoms of Dengue - should consult a doctor to be safe.

Channel 7

San Pedro Takes Steps to Remain Zika Free

San Pedro Town Council and Ministry Of Health Unite For A Zika Free San Pedro - With the recent Zika situation in the region, The San Pedro Town Council in conjunction with the Ministry of Health has embarked on a proactive approach to ensure that our island, as well as the entire country of Belize, remains Zika free.

This plan of action is in accordance with the national plan of action that the Ministry of Health has embarked on. The San Pedro Town Council and the Ministry of Health are therefore encouraging all islanders to do their part to prevent all forms of mosquito-borne diseases and keep our environment and island clean.

  1. Get rid of all water catchment that can be possible mosquito breeding sites; such as tires: old cans, coconut shells, old refrigerators, drums and soda caps.
  2. Keep your yard and surrounding properties clean and free of garbage.
  3. Open doors and windows when the San Pedro Town Council trucks are conducting mosquito fogging (spraying) in your area.
The Ministry of Health and the San Pedro Town Council will continue to carry out normal standard procedures to get rid of mosquitos and possible breeding sites such as:
  1. a. ULV spraying on the entire island
  2. b. Distribute granular Abate upon request at the San Pedro Town Council Barracks.

As with any confirmed vector transmitted diseases, the San Pedro Town Council and the Ministry of Health have a standard procedure in place as an intervention measure for the island. This includes, but is not limited to larviciding, thermal fogging, inspection and treatment of water storage containers on premises.

The San Pedro Town Council and the Ministry of Health are also working on other educational and preventive initiatives to combat mosquito-borne diseases. Personal prevention measures, such as the use of insect repellent are also strongly encouraged.

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