Features — 25 November 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Belize’s first confirmed case of Chikungunya in Las Flores

BELIZE CITY–Belize has confirmed its first case of Chikungunya, a viral mosquito-borne illness which began to spread in the Caribbean a year ago.

Director of Health Services (DHS), Dr. Michael Pitts, told Amandala that the positive result was confirmed last week, following tests conducted at the laboratory of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), based in Trinidad and Tobago, on samples taken from a woman of Las Flores, Belmopan, whom he declined to identify.

Pitts said that Chikungunya (also known as Chik-V) has been a concern since it began to spread in the Caribbean in 2013.

“We have all the conditions: the two subtypes of mosquitos, environmental conditions, the rains,” Pitts said.

He noted that Chik-V has been spreading in many countries in the region, including Jamaica, Grenada, Santa Domingo and Salvador, the country from which Belize’s index case was imported.

Pitts said that Chik-V has an attack rate of as high as 65%, which represents the percentage of people in the population which may contract the disease, but who develop lifetime immunity thereafter. However, he told us that their aim is to keep the attack rate as low as possible, to avoid chaos in the healthcare system, which could result from a sudden explosion of Chik-V cases, which Pitts said will require an aggressive strategy.

He said that one good defense is implementing the 4D’s: avoid mosquito peak hours at dawn and dusk; use DEET insecticides (including bed nets impregnated with DEET), treat and clean drains, and avoid dark clothes.

Pitts said that the Ministry of Health is now looking to see if there has been any local transmission of Chik-V. Results from three lab samples are still pending, and these include samples taken from members of the household of the first confirmed Chik-V case in Belize.

A press release from the Ministry of Health says that they have “been conducting active surveillance and vector control activity…” in the area.

“The Ministry of Health continues to urge all households and communities to reduce mosquito breeding sites and avoid being bitten,” the release added.

Pitts said that he had just received notification of a suspected case of Chik-V in St. Margaret’s Village, and they will deploy health staff to that area today. There is a 10-day period within which persons with the disease can pass it on, he said.

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