Another mosquito borne disease reaches the Caribbean: ZIKA

vlcsnap-2015-11-17-15h12m46s92With all this rain, one other factor to consider is the increase of breeding grounds for mosquitos and with the latest Ministry of Health public advisory, mosquitos are definitely unwanted right now. That’s because the Ministry of Health says that for the first time, five cases of Zika virus in the Caribbean have been confirmed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) . Zika is a mosquito-borne disease, transmitted by the same vector for Dengue and Chikungunya, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In an interview today, Kim Bautista, Chief of Operations for the Vector Control Unit for the Ministry of Health, told us why Belize should be concerned although the virus has not been detected in Central America.

Kim Bautista, Chief Operations Officer, Vector Control: The release that was sent out last week by CARPHA, like I said for an vlcsnap-2015-11-17-15h27m29s195unnamed island within the Caribbean. It has not been confirmed within Central America, but the reason Belize is concerned is because if El Salvador confirms those cases, then because of the migration between Belize and El Salvador, and the experience that we had when our first Chikengunya case came from there then it must be a concern for us. So it’s a virus where we know we have to mosquito that transmit the disease and we have the right environment for transmission. So it’s just another disease that we need to be prepared for.

Emmanuel Pech, Reporter: Sir, if it should be introduced in Belize, how equipped is the ministry to handle this.

Kim Bautista, Chief Operations Officer, Vector Control: Like I said, it’s a unique situation where you have the same mosquito capable of transmitting these three diseases; Dengue, Chikengunya, and now Zika. So basically you’re strategies do not change, because it’s the same vector that you’re targeting. But again I believe that the Belizean Public over the years, and their experience with dengue, they are aware in terms of how to prevent the spread of this illness, and that they need to do their part in terms of getting rid of breeding sites in their yard.   vlcsnap-2015-11-17-15h29m09s183

The symptoms are similar to Dengue and Chikungunya which may include fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, nausea, vomiting and rash. However there is a breath of relief because when comparing the three mosquito borne diseases, Zika, according to Buatista, is at the bottom of the list.

Kim Bautista, Chief Operations Officer, Vector Control: Fortunately, Zika is not fatal. There has never been a reported fatality attributed to Zika. I would say comparing the 3 viral illnesses, I think it’s at the bottom of the list. The symptoms, as I had mentioned earlier, are very similar but it’s a less severe disease as opposed to dengue which could have homoerotic manifestations and could lead to death and Chikengunya, which despite most of your symptoms passing between 7-10 days there are scenarios with Chikengunya for several weeks or months at a time you end up with severe joint pain. So in terms of Zita, the symptoms persist for about 4-7 days.

Though complications from Zika are rare and no deaths have been reported, there is no vaccine or treatment for the disease. The Ministry of Health issued the advisory that the general public should protect themselves from mosquito bites by destroying mosquitoes’ breeding sites in and around homes and surrounding areas; keeping water drums tightly covered; draining stagnant water from yards and neighborhoods, and vlcsnap-2015-11-17-15h12m18s66throwing out stagnant water from flower vases, old tires, and other containers that may act as breeding sites. The Ministry of Health says it is preparing for the introduction of this disease to Belize based on the most recent experience with Chikungunya which spread throughout the Caribbean and the Americas, including Belize within less than one year.

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