LAS FLORES, BELMOPAN–Two family members in Las Flores, Belmopan, can breathe a sigh of relief after official tests conducted by the Ministry of Health have confirmed that they have not been stricken by Chikungunya (Chik-V), an emerging mosquito-borne disease that first showed up in the Americas in late 2013. The tests conducted by the Ministry of Health confirm that the two women in fact had dengue, although a rapid test conducted at a private lab in Belmopan had showed a positive result for Chikungunya for one of the patients.
This has led Health authorities to underscore the fact that rapid tests done at local labs are unreliable. Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Head of Epidemiology Unit in the Ministry of Health, said that these tests have a sensitivity of less than 30%.
The Chikungunya virus has been sickening thousands across Central America and the Caribbean, and Health authorities in Belize say that two persons who traveled to Belize from El Salvador had tested positive there, based on clinical assessments only.
The Ministry of Health is still waiting on the results from the Caribbean Public Health Authority (CARPHA) in Trinidad for a test that was conducted on Maria Alvarado, a Salvadoran national who has been visiting Las Flores, Belmopan, since Independence Day. If her results are positive, she would be the first confirmed case of Chik-V in Belize. However, all indications are that she was not infectious at the time she came into the country, but she is suffering lingering arthritis-like pains in her joints, as is customary with the disease.
Manzanero said that a fourth woman of Las Flores who had been told in El Salvador that she had Chikungunya, based only on a clinical diagnosis there, has actually tested positive for dengue –not Chikungunya — when Belize health authorities did the lab analysis.
In that country, there have been more than 33,000 cases of Chik-V reported, but they are not doing lab testing in the vast majority of those cases, Manzanero explained.
According to Manzanero, there has been no evidence of anyone so far having contracted Chikungunya here in Belize.
Since Friday, Health officials have been on the ground, investigating cases of feverish infections in the Las Flores area, where there is evidently a spike in dengue cases – but not the hemorrhagic type, as has been the case on Southside Belize City, which this year has reported an anomalously high number of dengue hemorrhagic fever cases.