Ministry of Health on Zika prevention drive

By Benjamin Flowers

Top ranking officials in the Ministry of Health met this week to discuss a national action plan for preventing and minimizing Zika virus infections in Belize.

The officials met at the inspiration Center on Tuesday to discuss the roles of each arm of the ministry in the response. Officials also discussed necessary sensitization and training for ministry staff, as well as the kind of information about the virus that will be disseminated to the public.

Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, explained that while the national action plan has surveillance components, the ministry and its partners will be aggressively pushing prevention methods and messages.

Dr. Natalia Largaespada-Beer, Maternal and Child Health director for the MOH, spoke on the sexual transmission of Zika, explaining World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on its prevention.

“Persons traveling to communities with active Zika virus transmission, especially men, when they come back to the country, they should be utilizing a condom for at least 28 days,” Beer said. “If the person travels to a community with active transmission of the Zika virus and is confirmed to have an infection then the recommendation is to utilize a condom for 6 months.”

The Zika virus has been confirmed in over 26 countries within Latin America and the Caribbean, however, there have been no confirmed cases in Belize.

The ministry of health said that three samples taken from Belizeans, suspected of having Zika, were sent to Trinidad and Tobago for testing, but came back negative.

The WHO, last week, declared that the Zika virus was a global health concern, due to the number of cases being found in the region and the rate at which the virus, passed on by the aedes egypti mosquito, is spreading.

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