Headline — 17 May 2016 — by Adele Ramos
1st Zika case is north side Belize City woman

BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 16, 2016–A Belizean woman who turned up at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital with fever and a rash has been confirmed as the first case of Zika in Belize.

“The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has returned the results of samples sent to their laboratory from a heightened surveillance being carried out across the country. Of the samples sent to CARPHA thus far, one positive result was received last week,” said an official release from the Ministry of Health today.

Director of Health Services Dr. Marvin Manzanero told Amandala that as far as they are aware, the woman, who lives in north side Belize City, had not recently traveled outside of Belize, suggesting that the virus may have been locally acquired. Manzanero said that Health officials are working to prevent an outbreak of Zika in Belize.

The Director of Health Services (DHS) said that the ministry is mapping the entire area, but they have not found any real suspected cases in the immediate vicinity.

He advises the community to ensure that they keep areas free of breeding sites for the mosquitos which can carry the virus, especially as the country is bracing for the onset of the rainy season in a couple of weeks.

Apart from being spread by mosquitos, the virus is also transmitted through sex, and it can also be transmitted from mother to unborn child, leading to a rare condition known as microcephaly—a neurological disorder marked by a smaller than usual head circumference in newborns.

According to Manzanero, there was one case of suspected microcephaly in a Belizean newborn last month, but tests conducted on the mother cleared her of Zika. He also said that the baby has no apparent neurological complications.

According to Manzanero, future testing would focus on pregnant women who show symptoms that may suggest a Zika infection. Babies would also be monitored through routine ultrasound screening.

Manzanero said that they intend to identify potential Zika cases in their early stages and follow them to make sure that pregnancies are uneventful.

About a month ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed Belize among the countries with Zika, after the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that an American woman had acquired the virus in Belize.

The DHS said that since last November, nurses have been actively sharing prevention messages to those who visit health facilities, and they need to continue to be on the alert, he said.

Last week, CARICOM celebrated Mosquito Awareness Week. Manzanero said that the Ministry of Health is already engaged in preventative strategies, including clean-up campaigns. Those activities, he said, would be expanded to northern Belize.

The Ministry of Health said that it will provide updates on the first confirmed case of Zika in Belize, and other relevant information once they have completed their investigation.
“The heightened surveillance continues across the country,” the Ministry of Health added.

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