by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 25, 2024
The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has announced an escalation in its monitoring efforts for animal diseases that could affect humans and the economy.
This increased vigilance comes amidst growing concerns about zoonotic diseases – illnesses transmitted from animals or insects to humans – within the Central American and Caribbean regions.
Zoonotic diseases, also known as zoonoses, vary in severity, ranging from minor illnesses to potentially fatal conditions. These diseases can be caused by various pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Some of the most severe zoonotic diseases, such as dengue fever, Lyme disease, and malaria, are transmitted by mosquitos and ticks. Transmission of zoonotic diseases can occur through airborne pathogens, and also through consumption of contaminated meat or produce, direct contact with infected animals, or contact with contaminated surfaces. Some other feared zoonotic diseases include bird flu, rabies, Ebola, and Hepatitis E.
While zoonotic diseases are a global concern, developed countries, including the United States, have implemented food safety regulations to mitigate the risks associated with animal-sourced food products.
BAHA emphasizes the critical threat posed by illegal importation of animals and animal products into Belize. Such practices can introduce devastating diseases like New World Screwworm, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, and Classical Swine Fever, all present in nearby regions.
These diseases not only pose a health risk but also threaten food security and livelihoods in Belize. In response, BAHA has heightened its national surveillance programs and is actively participating in international and regional initiatives to prevent the spread of these hazardous diseases.
However, they reassure that there have been no reported cases of such diseases in Belize at this time. The organization stresses the collective responsibility of Belizeans in preventing illegal animal importations.