Friday, May 1, 2009



It’s been a week of much worrying in Belize and around the world about the Swine Flu Virus. The government of Belize has reacted to the threat by ordering the closure and postponement of all major public events since April 29, 2009.

The closure of the National Agricultural and Trade Show, and the Crooked Tree Village Cashew Festival, which should have opened today, is extraordinary. The postponement of the Annual General Meeting of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union, The Morgan Heritage Musical Concert and many other events planned for the Labor Day weekend have left many Belizeans bewildered.

According to Dr. Paul Edwards, an Epidemiologist in the Belize Ministry of Health, this new virus is thought to be a combination of the Swine Virus which normally occurs in pigs and the Avian Virus combined with a human virus. These combinations have produced a new virus, a type A Virus called H1N1.

The Ministry of Health in Belize is making sure that the public gets the right information about the disease and recommending some simple things that you can do to safeguard yourselves against the disease.

To avoid contagion, the Health Department recommends the public do the following:

Stay away from people with respiratory infections

Wash hands frequently with soap and water

Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing

Do not kiss or shake hands when you greet people

Do not share food, glasses or cutlery

Keep kitchen and bathroom surfaces clean and all commonly used areas in your homes

There have been 176 suspected deaths in Mexico, of these, 20 cases have been confirmed. Dozens more in the United States and around the world are sickened. Because the swine flu symptoms are similar to seasonal flu, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention if you develop high fever, headaches, coughs and muscular pains. Up to now there have not been any confirmed cases of the swine flu in Belize; however there have been four suspected cases, but none of these have resulted in hospitalization.

According to Dr. Michael Pitts, Director of Health Services, the only way to confirm a suspected case is through laboratory test which is not done in Belize. Arrangements are being made by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to send these tests to the Caribbean Epidemiologist Center for Belize directly to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The MOH also said there are plans to import a supply of the medication “Tamiflu” which can help in the treatment. This medication is handled with supervision by the World Health Organization and is kept in stockpile in Panama. According to the MOH, there are 3000 doses available for Belize should the need arise.

 For hog producers, the “swine flu” could not have come at a worse time. They have been losing money since 2007. The flu, which has no connection to pigs other than containing swine flu genetics, triggered bans by several countries on U.S. pork and caused hog prices to fall by 10 percent this week.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization dropped the swine flu name in favor of the less prejudicial Influenza A H1N1. But hog producers said the damage has been done.

  The WHO has declared the swine flu outbreak in North America a “public health emergency of international concern.” This decision means countries around the world will be asked to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease. The WHO fears the outbreak could spread to other countries and is calling for a worldwide coordinated response to contain it.

Source: Ch5 Belize, San Pedro Sun, Belize Ministry of Health



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