Zika virus transmission rates appear to be on the rise in Belize since November 2016, despite a general fall in rates across Central and South America. According to a recent study involving the testing of donated blood, 5 percent of the population may be infected. Some 800 cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed since November, but the real rate is likely much higher, given that the disease - believed to have arrived in the country for the first time in April or May of 2016 - is asymptomatic in approximately 80 percent of cases.
While the Zika virus in itself is usually relatively benign, links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. When symptoms do occur, they generally appear two to seven days following contraction of the disease, and include fever, headache (behind the eyes), conjunctivitis, rash, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain. The virus is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.
Other mosquito-borne diseases are present, including chikungunya and dengue fever, but transmission rates for these two viruses are currently low.
Individuals in Belize - particularly pregnant women and their partners - are advised to take measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites - e.g. by minimizing skin exposure, using insect repellent, and sleeping in an air conditioned or screened-in room.
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