Dengue keeps raging on in Belize

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The Ministry of Health is implementing in all six districts (the four health regions) their dengue response plan to counteract the denque outbreak that is raging across the country. Such a plan was developed between March and April of this year.

Those plans were developed by the various District management teams on the advice of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARHA) based on their forecast for Dengue in 2019. In that forecast, they had predicted that it would be an overly active dengue season. As a result, the Ministry of Health had worked with the different management teams to ensure that in terms of clinical management and vector control that there would be an effective response. That forecast from both PAHO and CARHA turned out to be very accurate.

What has been seen within the region of Central and South America is that 2019 has already surpassed the total for the entire 2017 and 2018. So far, the region has endured over two million cases of dengue. In Belize, the outbreak of dengue began in the North, specifically Corozal and Orange Walk.

Experts within the Ministry of Health began observing dengue cases in the South in certain areas such as Dangriga and Santa Cruz, then in Bella Vista and Independence. We are now seeing dengue out West in areas like Benque Viejo and Succotz. Dengue has been uncovered around the outside periphery of Belmopan in areas such as Las Flores, Salvapan, San Martin and other populated areas.

In terms of total figures, the Ministry of Health has confirmed 950 laboratory cases in both the public and private sector. So too has been the diagnosis of 814 clinical cases for a grand total of 1,764 cases countrywide.

Also, in terms of incidence in the districts, Orange Walk has a total of 509 cases, Corozal 220,  Belize 126, Cayo 521, Stann Creek 334 and Toledo with the lowest cases at 54.

Based on those figures, the Vector Control Unit has employed 16 additional staff countrywide to target the Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo and Stann Creek Districts. These persons have been deployed with special equipment to work effectively on the ground.

To counteract dengue, there have been various clean up campaigns with the different municipalities. In the North, Vector Control staff has met with over 80 village leaders in an attempt to get cooperation from these localities. The Belize City Council and the San Ignacio Town Council have also been on board with Vector Control.

“I think that not until that,  not until we reach to the point where the public and other stakeholders get on board in terms of cleaning up some of these breeding sites that we will be able to really see progress,” says Kim Bautista, Chief of Operations at the Vector Control, within the Ministry of Health.

“At this time, it doesn’t matter what quantities of funds the Ministry puts in, if you don’t get the cooperation from the public, we won’t get over this outbreak anytime soon,” he reminded.

What has been observed is that there has been this intense heat and then the rains and then the recurrence of that trend. This tends to shorten the life cycle of the mosquitoes. So, mosquitoes are hatching sometimes in three to four days.

The entire region has been experiencing a drought and because of this, people are storing water in buckets and drums. Then, there are an over excess of tires not being properly disposed.  It is also anticipated that the rains will come more intensely.

“It has to be a shared responsibility. Dengue is a disease that is driven by a lot of social factors, and as residents, we need to do our part in terms of ensuring that we are not keeping containers within our yards that are breeding mosquitoes. That’s where the problem is and until we can accept this and be a part of the solution, we cannot realistically expect that the Ministry of Health will be in every premises in the country to do inspections and get rid of containers and these things. It has to be a shared responsibility,” said Kim Bautista from his Belmopan Office on Tuesday.