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Oct 20, 2014

Belize Prepares for Ebola

Marvin Manzanero

It has now been confirmed that a lab technician who was a passenger on the Carnival Magic cruise ship, has been cleared of the Ebola virus. Tests were done on her before the Carnival cruise ship was to arrive in Galveston, Texas.  The woman and her husband arrived in Belize on Thursday and the possibility of a threat of the deadly virus created panic nationwide. But all that was put to rest when the Carnival Magic sailed away on Thursday night and the passenger and her husband were not allowed to come onshore.  On Friday, Prime Minister Barrow held a press conference during which he detailed what transpired on Thursday after government was notified that the lab technician was onboard the cruise ship.  The woman, an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was believed to have handled specimen from deceased Ebola victim, Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas nineteen days earlier.  Despite her exposure to the deadly virus, the unnamed staffer embarked on a seven-night cruise of the Caribbean. While a three-way call between the Office of the Prime Minister, the U.S. State Department and the United States Embassy in Belize resulted in the PM’s refusal to have the pair medevaced from the Phillip Goldson International Airport, a private aircraft chartered to return them to the United States subsequently landed at the P.G.I.A.  The cruise line docked in Galveston on Sunday after also being refused to allow passengers to disembark in Cozumel, Mexico.  Aside from the refusal, a travel ban was placed on a number of countries in West Africa and today, a series of meetings were held with various government agencies in Belize City and Belmopan, including the Department of Civil Aviation and NEMO.

 

Via Phone: Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Interim Head, Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health

“We had already planned some activities that I can’t say were triggered by the events of last Thursday.  They were just activities that we had planned and were routinely carrying out.  Today we had some public health personnel from headquarters meeting at the airport.  Through the weekend we had two houses which would be a quarantine post within the airport and we have started using the questionnaires for people flying into the P.G.I.A.  On Friday we also had a training session for staff from the P.G.I.A. at all levels and this morning we had a major meeting with NEMO and key personnel from customs, immigration, BAHA, tourism, NEMO and the Ministry of Health to discuss where we are going to go in terms of Ebola and the ongoing preparations as a country.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“How did that meeting go, in terms of this multi-agency approach that is now being employed?”

 

Via Phone: Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“Well basically the reason why we met and we have been having discussions electronically and I think we had mentioned earlier that we had met with the NEMO person in charge, Col. Defoe from last month actually and we are trying streamline all our activities and I think one of the key elements that is communication, interagency communication to ensure that we are all on the same page.  One of the reasons why we met also is to give everybody that was at the table a brief description of how the Ebola epidemic looks in West Africa and the potential it has for the region.  And based on that we triggered off a discussion to see how we will vamp up our surveillance activities at all border entry points and what we would start doing internally in case we would have a suspected case of Ebola.”

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