Belize braces for CHIKV virus

By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter

Representatives from all over the Ministry of Health met this week for a sensitization session on Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease that is on the rise in the Caribbean and the Americas.

The session, which brought together medical professionals such as clinicians, laboratory technicians and vector control personnel, was held at the Belize Institute of Management Training Room in Belize City.

The ministry reviewed the “Preparedness and Response Plan for Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) Introduction in the Caribbean sub-region,” a document compiled by some 22 experts from throughout the Caribbean.

The report discussed four major ways CHIKV’s arrival to Belize would be managed: clinical management, epidemiological surveillance, laboratory surveillance, and vector control.

Director of Health Services Doctor Michael Pitts explained that the disease does not have a high fatality rate, but sensitization is still important because of the inevitability of CHIKV reaching Belize.

“Belize has no cases, but I must say that we have all the environmental conditions. We are tropical just like the rest of the Caribbean. The mosquitoes are there, the environmental conditions are there and the level of interaction is happening where I think it is really safe to say that it’s not if, but when it will come here.”

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
It has many symptoms which overlap with Dengue fever. However, it is distinguished by a high fever and persistent and severe joint pain.
Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, but unlike dengue, a person with CHIKV can remain ill for up to six months.
There is no cure for the disease, Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

During treatment, infected persons are asked to refrain from using aspirin based pain killers, and steroids to try and address joint pains. Antibiotics are also inconsequential because the disease is viral.

CHIKV is responsible for six confirmed deaths: one in Guadalupe, two in Martinique and three in St. Maarten.
There are d 3625 confirmed cases, and 2840 probable cases of the disease
CHIKV does however produce a lifetime immunity once the disease is overcome.

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