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New Vector Borne Virus Threatening Belize Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:00

There is a new vector borne Virus posing a threat to Belize. It is called Chikunguya and according Dr. Michael Pitts, the Director of Health Services, “It is not a question of if it will reach Belize but when”.

Chikunguya was first discovered after an outbreak in 1952 on the Makonde Plateau which is located along the border between Mozambique and Tanganyika (the mainland part of modern day Tanzania). The name is derived from a description in the Makonde language meaning "that which bends up" and according to Dr. Pitts, “the name says it all”. The disease shares similarity with Dengue. Symptoms include a fever up to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The fever typically last for two days and ends abruptly. However, the duration of the signature symptom, arthritis like joint pain, varies by patient. The severe joint pain may last 5 to 15 days, a few months or, in some cases, a few years. There is no cure for the virus. Dr. Pitts says, “What we do is treat the symptoms.” Fortunately for those who may be infected, the fatality rate for Chikunguya is extremely low. 

Dr. Pitts says the Ministry is on a public awareness campaign on the disease because they are certain it will reach Belize. Chikunguya was first detected in the Americas in St. Martin in late November of 2013. The World Health Organization confirmed local transmission of the virus in the country in December. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with chikungunya and are spreading it to people. This is the first time that local transmission of chikungunya has been reported in the Americas. The virus is transmitted from host to host by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Since the virus was first detected in St. Martin in late November 2013, there have been confirmed cases in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Sint Maarten (Dutch). Both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are in Belize. Prevention in the case of Chikunguya is similar to that of any vector borne disease. Residents are encouraged to clean their living area and destroy breeding grounds.