There was a Coronavirus scare on Caye Caulker last night which gained social media momentum early this morning.
But tonight we can tell you that the particularly dangerous strain of the Coronavirus that's all over the world news has not been detected in Belize.
What happened in Caye Caulker last night was hype and confusion surrounding a Chinese tourist who had been screened upon leaving China, and again when entering the U.S.A at LAX before being cleared for travel to Belize, where he has been treated very badly.
In an effort to allay public fears, the Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero spoke to PLUS TV today in Belmopan where he outlined the facts of what is being done to protect Belizeans from the virus:
Dr. Marvin Manzanero - Director of Health Services. "We had our first online meeting with other Caribbean countries last week Wednesday. And that is as a result of what potential implications this has for the region. We had another meeting on Friday which was already scheduled where we discussed briefly about the coronavirus and influenza which is the broader topic. And this morning we had an internal meeting to find out what the surveillances plans are and how they are coming along for each of the four regions in the country. And that is in preparation for the other activities we are having this week. As we speak there should be a meeting happening at the airport. With Civil Aviation Authorities and the central health region Karl Huesner to lay out and ensure that the plan is rolling the way it is supposed to be rolling whenever there is an alert of a new potential virus. One of the key issues is people will start to flag and I think it is has been overwhelming on social media and you can't defend everything that is there. The issue of travel bans or that maybe we should not be allowing anybody from China to get here. That is not what is international health regulation. So when you go to the WHO website it clearly articulates and outlines what needs to happen. What does that mean? For people that are arriving from a potential area where there are active infections happening, you would have to go through a screening process which means determine whether they are carrying any signs or symptoms. Determine whether they are potential carriers. Tell them if they get ill where they need to go, in terms of a health facility in the country, determine where they have been, where they will be and make sure that you are keeping track of them. Understand that when people get to Belize, as we know now, coming out of China, they are pre-screened before they are allowed to board the plane. When they are getting into US airports they are screened again. So, there are already two layers of screening that happen before they get to Belize."
"The meeting at the airport is to ensure that the public health inspectors that are there are able to further screen any person that has China as their originating point of departure wherever they are coming through. So that, there will be another screening process that happens once they arrive in Belize. If they are asymptomatic, if they are visiting they need to be monitored and we need to be able to follow these persons for the time they are going to be here assuming that they don't live here. What will happen is that whenever there is any potential case, is that there will be a team that is sent out to investigate what is happening. I understand that the patient that was evaluated yesterday, well the person because it isn't a patient, is asymptomatic. And that was done again today. But I don't have the full report. I have the preliminary report to say that he has no signs and no symptoms, he is not coming from a region where there is active transmission because that is a part of your epidemiological investigation, basic public health. So, he is a low risk. He was screened before he left China, he was screened at the airport in L. A. moved on to Dallas and then on to Belize. No symptoms, no sign. So he has been told we need to map out where you are going to Belize and you need to be aware of what you need to be in case you start feeling ill. We will make a determination by the end of the day whether we will start swabbing even though he is not ill. Ideally we should not be swabbing everybody just because they are coming from China. It also goes against basic public health measures."
"It seems to be human to human, but it doesn't seem to be in a sustained kind of fashion. It does seem to have a higher transmission rate than SARS did because we had already 5,000 cases when we last checked and that doesn't count all those asymptomatic cases. The mortality rate doesn't seem to be as high, it seems to be around 2% up to now. Mortality seems to be associated in patients who already have other chronic conditions which would mimic what other flew viruses have. I mean, if you are diabetic, if you have HIV, if you are dialysis, you are more likely to have a complication as a result of the flue. It is the same thing that seems to be happening with this virus. It may very well just go back to being like any other corona viruses that have been circulating since 2005 or thereabouts. So, we will see as it evolves. But for now, it is basic prevention measures. As with any other flu virus. l think we have been criticized for saying wash your hands, don't touch your face, but it starts with that. That's the basics. That is 90% of any infection that you get. It is going to be because we don't wash our hands properly, and we usually go on to pass the transmission from our hands to our face."
The Ministry of Health urges proper hygiene in the washing of hands and refraining from touching the face.