The Ministry of Health takes multi-tasking to a new level Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00

With the celebration of World Health Day in Belize on Friday, the Ministry of Health continues to work in addressing the many challenges facing the Nation. The Ministry of Health currently has to deal with the issues of non-communicable diseases, hypertension, diabetes, life style changes, smoking, drinking, road traffic accidents and mental health issues and has had to rev up its multitasking approaches.

Friday’s launch of World Health Day focused on depression. According to the World Health Organization,  depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. More than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

But a more concurrent issue to face Belize is the Zika virus, where a number of cases have been detected in the North of Belize (samples are being sent to Mexico for viral analysis).  The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus).

“While we are getting a lot of positive cases, Zika in the Northern districts doesn’t mean that the rest of the country doesn’t have it now in terms of the pregnant women,” says Dr. Ramon Figueroa, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Health.

The Center for Disease Control has reported that the Zika Virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly, where the baby’s brain does not develop properly during pregnancy or stops growing after birth.  Scientists have also discovered that Zika infection can lead to Congenital Zika syndrome characterized by damage to the back of the eye, joints with limited range of motion and muscle tone restricting body movement soon after birth.

“As far as I know we have no major issues yet…we have not had any negative results from new borns,” assures Dr. Ramon Figueroa.

Efforts to counteract Zika has now involved an educational component where every prenatal clinic in Belize now has information on the disease. Educational videos relating to pregnant women and Zika have also been sponsored by the office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children.

But the biggest counteracting measure against Zika can be taken at the community level.

“We continue to insist, keep your yard clean, eliminate garbage and breeding sites for the mosquito,”  informs Dr. Ramon Figueroa.

While Belize is in the dry season at this time, the Ministry of Health is using this brief respite “…to again strengthen our capacity as a Ministry to respond” says Dr. Figueroa.