The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that Belize has been certified as malaria-free.
With today’s announcement, a total of 42 countries and 1 territory have been certified as malaria-free by WHO, including 11 countries in the Region of the Americas.
Over the last 3 decades, Belize has achieved a dramatic reduction in its malaria caseload – from a peak of about 10,000 cases in 1994 to zero indigenous cases in 2019, according to WHO.
The significant decline in cases can be attributed to effective investments – both at domestic and international levels – and to the crucial role of dedicated staff for malaria surveillance. This allowed for early detection of cases, prompt diagnosis and treatment, and complementary preventive measures such as indoor residual spraying and long-lasting insecticidal nets targeted to groups at high risk of malaria, including migrant workers living in border areas with Guatemala and Mexico.
“WHO congratulates the people and government of Belize and their network of global and local partners for this achievement”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Belize is another example of how, with the right tools and the right approach, we can dream of a malaria-free future.”
Malaria is a life-threatening disease spread to humans by some types of mosquitoes. It is mostly found in tropical countries. It is preventable and curable.
The infection is caused by a parasite and does not spread from person to person.
Symptoms can be mild or life-threatening. Mild symptoms are fever, chills and headache. Severe symptoms include fatigue, confusion, seizures, and difficulty breathing.
Infants, children under 5 years, pregnant women, travellers and people with HIV or AIDS are at higher risk of severe infection.
Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and with medicines. Treatments can stop mild cases from getting worse.
Malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Blood transfusion and contaminated needles may also transmit malaria. The first symptoms may be mild, similar to many febrile illnesses, and difficulty to recognize as malaria. Left untreated, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness and death within 24 hours.
There are 5 Plasmodium parasite species that cause malaria in humans and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat. P. falciparum is the deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent on the African continent. P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa. The other malaria species which can infect humans are P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi.
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