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Zika in Belize?

So you are thinking of going to Belize, or maybe you are already scheduled to go within the next few months, but now the threat of Zika has surfaced and you are worried.

We just received a message on this subject from the Belize Tourist Board which we would like to share here. The bottom line? Zika is not in Belize yet, but it likely will be as it is spreading worldwide, including to the US. It seems it is not a threat except to women of child-bearing age. The threat of Zika is similar to the threat of Dengue fever, which also is spread by mosquitoes and also has no treatment. The best way to not get Zika is to make sure you are not bit by a mosquito. Period.

We do not have Zika, Dengue, or Malaria on our island, and that is easy to control because the island is small. These diseases are also not a risk in large urban areas as they have their mosquito populations under control as well. When traveling to rural areas, especially jungle areas, one should take aggressive precautions against mosquitoes, ie: clothes they cannot bite through and wear powerful bug sprays.

Here is the office message from the Belize Tourist Board in its entirity.

At this time, it is important to note that the Zika virus has not spread to Belize. As a precaution for visitors traveling to the Belize, you are encouraged to wear long sleeves and long pants and/or liberally apply insect repellent when appropriate.

Update from the Ministry of Health (MOH)

The Ministry of Health has been sensitizing the media and has sent out three (3) press releases on the Zika Virus, dating back to November of last year.

Note also that the MOH is utilizing the same plans that were developed for Dengue and Chikungunya, as they are all transmitted by the same vector.

The MOH is aware of the ongoing news stories and queries via media (social and printed) but the following is the updated position on Belize:

–     There hasn’t been a confirmed case of Zika in Belize

–     We are looking at avenues for testing for Zika beyond sending the samples to Trinidad (so far the Gorgas Institute in Panama has offered to help)

–     Our efforts in terms of spraying and vector control measures continue

–     As soon as we have any other major information, we will be passing that along to all relevant stakeholders

General information about the ZIKA virus

  1. What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually very mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe symptoms requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

  1. How does the virus spread?

It spreads exclusively through mosquitos. These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

  1. Where have outbreaks occurred?

Outbreaks of Zika have sporadically occurred for many years in areas of Africa and Southeast Asia. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries.  It has been found in 14 Central and South American countries: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.  It has recently surfaced in several states in the USA.

  1. Why is it of concern now?

There’s been growing evidence linking Zika infection in pregnant women to a rare condition called microcephaly, in which the child is born with a birth defect where the head is smaller than normal and the brain has not developed properly. U.S. health officials are heading to Brazil, where there’s been a recent spike in the birth defect, to further study the actual risk to pregnant women.

There is no medicine or vaccine for the Zika virus. Hospitalizations are rare and no deaths have been reported as a result of the virus.