Pink Eye causing problems for BERT
Belize Emergency Response Team, BERT, has announced that conjunctivitis or pink eye is affecting its capabilities. A statement from BERT states quote, “the organization is currently being impacted by the ongoing conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) infection, therefore, Non-Emergency Land Ambulance Services are being affected.” End of quote.
The public is asked to minimize Non-Emergency Calls to BERT until the situation stabilizes. BERT continues to respond to Emergency Calls as per normal through its land and air ambulance services. The public is reminded to employ driving best practices and obey the rules of the road to prevent Road Traffic Accidents.
The Ministry of Health has advised that once you are affected by the Pink Eye infection to visit a Doctor as soon as possible and stay at home. Wash your hands regularly after touching your face and stay away from crowded areas to minimize the spread.
M.O.H. Says Pink Eye Cases Have Not Peaked – 9,000 in a Month
This evening, following meetings with the Pan American Health Organization and gathering of formal reports, Director of Health Services Dr. Marvin Manzanero updated News Five with the very latest statistics on what has become a national and regional health epidemic. The Ministry of Health now reports upwards of eleven thousand cases of conjunctivitis from the start of 2017, versus just two thousand, four hundred and twenty-six to this point last year. The figures for 2017 stood just over two thousand, two hundred cases up to about the second week of September, when the first reports started coming in. According to Dr. Manzanero, the regional public health lab has identified the viral strain causing the outbreak, but he warns that despite a trend of reducing cases in the North, the ‘pink eye’ outbreak has not yet reached its peak.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services
“Data we managed to tabulate earlier in the week which ended for the epidemiological week last week, is suggesting that we still have not peaked in terms of the total amount of cases. The epidemic, according to our estimation, started four weeks ago when we started seeing the increase in numbers. In the last four weeks we have seen a little more than nine thousand cases. The vast majority of those, close to seven thousand cases, were in the last two weeks. So at week thirty-nine, we were at three thousand six hundred, and last week we had four thousand three hundred, something like that. In the previous thirty-six weeks – in the first nine months of this year, more or less – we only had had two thousand, two hundred plus cases, so that means that for the year, we have had close to eleven thousand cases; nine thousand of those have been in the current epidemic that we have.”
“And in terms of why the sudden jump, that’s still being looked into?”
Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“Yes. This is the normal pattern of epidemics. Some countries will peak at different rates – I know some countries in the region have peaked after eleven weeks; we are in week five of our epidemic. When you start breaking it down by district and doing rates; Corozal and Orange Walk have had decreasing rates over the last week; the Stann Creek District and the Belize District have had increases in rates; Cayo has had increase in rates as well. So it seem that Cayo, Stann Creek and Belize District has just started to go up, Corozal and Orange Walk are starting to go down, and Toledo – it doesn’t seem that the epidemic has fully reached there yet. We got the results back from CARPHA of the testing that we had done with some random samples we took. So eighteen results were sent back to us today; fourteen of those samples came back positive for an enterovirus, which is consistent with what had been reported in the region in terms of the epidemic, and it’s also consistent with what we have been saying, that this is not a bacterial conjunctivitis epidemic that we have, so the lab data substantiates what we were initially considering.”
In Friday’s newscast we will have much more from Dr. Manzanero, including why the suddenly booming eye-drop industry may not save you from the pain of pink eye.
Healthy Living Reviews Pink Eye Plan
We know you may be tired of hearing about the eye infection sweeping across the country. But it is not a time to let your guard down. The public health clinics are still seeing a large number of new infections daily. As you heard earlier, the Ministry of Health is reporting that in just one month, a total of nine thousand and eighty-two cases have been reported in Belize due to the epidemic which started back in mid-September. While it is expected that the number of new cases will eventually begin to decrease. We must still maintain proper preventative strategies: Healthy Living offers a few more reminders.
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
It’s been a little over a months since the soar in cases of conjunctivitis in Belize. Families have stocked up on soap and hand sanitizers; attempting to prevent the dreaded eye infection. How do you know if you’ve come in contact with the virus? Swelling, itching, burning, teary eyes are some common signs of the infection but it’s advised to visit a clinic for an official diagnosis.
Dr. Melissa Diaz, Primary Care Coordinator, Central Health Region, MOH
“Incubation period is short. Within hours or 24 hours or even less for you to start with symptoms. Generally we’ll see people are having symptoms for about five to seven days. It really depends on the severity of the illness that you get. It’s different from let’s say the chicken pox virus that once you mount a response that you don’t get it again. With pink eye you can. There are many different viruses that can cause it. So you can definitely get re-infected.”
Whether bacterial or viral, the symptoms are the similar. The major difference is that viral conjunctivitis – as is currently seen in this outbreak – is highly contagious. This is why; the Ministry of Health continues to urge Belizeans who have contracted pink eye to stay out of public areas.
Dr. Melissa Diaz
“What do we need to do to reduce the number of cases we’re seeing? Isolation. Separating yourself from the general public for the duration of the illness. Try not to touch your eyes even though its irritating its itching its painful, were asking you to wash your eyes with water, just distilled water or water from the pip you can also purchase artificial tears and out it in every hour every two hours. All of these things will help to alleviate some of your symptoms and stop you from touching your eyes which will make you less likely to be spreading the illness. We’re asking parents to keep children at home if they’d have pink eye from schools at every level from workplaces as well. We are also asking vendors, food handlers not be selling food, not be handling for with conjunctivitis as everybody who purchases from you is at risk of the developing conjunctivitis as well.”
Sunglasses are not enough to prevent the spread of the disease. The Ministry of Health posted a reminder that the Public Health Act does include offenses about willfully exposing people to infectious diseases and the employers’ responsibility to release workers who are infected with infectious diseases. Even businesses have posted their own warnings to customers like this hardware store. Ultimately, there is a collective responsibility in minimizing cases.
Dr. Melissa Diaz
“Hand washing is key, washing your hands as often as possible, you can use hand sanitizers, you can use alcohol. In your workplace you can spray the door handles and phones with Lysol and avoid touching your face and avoid touching your eyes. So kindly just isolate hand washing avoid touching your face and eyes, artificial tears and eye watching as much as possible.”