Health authorities on the island report an increase in Dengue fever
Thursday, August 1st, 2019
As cases of Dengue fever continue to increase across Belize, health authorities on the island are closely monitoring the situation after more than 20 cases were confirmed on Ambergris Caye. This is expected to increase, and islanders are urged to take preventative measures and to visit their nearest medical center if they suspect they have dengue symptoms. Dengue causes painful fever, rashes, and is a very debilitating illness. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes Egypti species of mosquito.
As of July 29th, over 700 cases across the country were confirmed by the Ministry of Health. They fear that this amount could be higher, as this excludes the cases that have not been registered in their electronic systems. Some persons may have attended private clinics, while others may not visit a medical center and opt to self-medicate.
According to Ambergris Caye’s Health Inspector Christina Martinez, a person should never self-medicate if they suspect they have dengue. “This could make the disease worse,” she said. “We advise anyone with high fever, pain in the joints, and rashes, to seek medical attention before taking any over the counter medication,” Martinez said that her team is visiting the different sub-divisions on the island, educating residents on how to best prevent dengue infections.
“We need to get rid of any containers that can hold water, as this becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” she said. “Currently, we are also spraying the areas where dengue cases have been confirmed.” Another attempt to prevent more persons from being infected is via the provision of mosquito bed nets to households that do not have one.
Dr. Javier Canul at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II added that the situation on the island had not reached epidemic levels, but if precautions are not taken, it can become one. He said that they are working on an awareness campaign to sensitize the community on this serious health issue. He commended the effort he has seen in certain sectors of the island, especially in the business community, who keep their areas clean and even do their own spraying to get rid of mosquitos.
Canul cautioned that with the constant movement of persons on and off the island, the possibility of more persons being infected could increase. He urges persons suspecting to be infected with the disease to visit the clinic. Laboratory tests are done in the mornings. However, emergency cases can be attended to at the discretion of the doctor.
Other diseases that the island medical authorities have been monitoring include Chikungunya and Zika. According to them, the island appears to be free of these two vector-borne diseases. To date, no cases have been confirmed on Ambergris Caye.
Chikungunya is a viral disease spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms of infection are fever and joint pain. Zika, also caused by a mosquito bite, can trigger paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) in pregnant women, causing subsequent congenital disabilities. Its symptoms are mild and last less than a week. They include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.
There’s no vaccine or specific treatment; the focus is on relieving symptoms and includes rest, rehydration, and acetaminophen for fever and pain.
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