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Oct 7, 2014

MoH Prepares for Ebola…Just in Case!

The deadly Ebola virus that has been traced all the way to Guinea in Africa, has made its way to as close as Dallas, Texas, where a man remains hospitalized in critical condition. There are no suspected cases, but officials at the Ministry of Health are keeping watch and preparing the K.H.M.H. for the possibility that the disease may somehow be transmitted to Belize. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A rash of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, an epidemic of the deadly strain that has made its way across to the United States and Spain since it originated in Guinea in December 2013, has a number of countries on alert, including Belize.  It is not entirely clear how the outbreak initially started.  While there have been no cases diagnosed locally, the Ministry of Health has already begun the process of preparing for an eventuality should there be an outbreak.


Dr. Michael Pitts, Director of Health Services

Michael Pitts

“Ebola is a disease that is transmitted by body fluids. It’s not transmitted by casual contact but essentially body fluids that include blood, semen, saliva, urine, feces are the principal modes.  The pattern that is emerging is that caregivers and healthcare workers seem to be the people most at risk.  How did Ebola get into the population?  It got into the population through exposure to dead animals that were hosts for this virus or people eating uncooked game in those countries, and the game includes monkeys, it includes shrews and some other rodents.”


As of last Wednesday, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and local governments from affected countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, as well as the United States and Spain, have collectively reported a little under seven thousand, five hundred suspected cases.  Of that tally there have been three thousand four hundred and thirty-nine deaths; however, the number of laboratory confirmed fatalities vary.


Dr. Michael Pitts

“Our population needs to know the high-risk areas where Ebola is and it is advisable that unessential travel isn’t done to those areas.  For people who need to travel then the advice is that they have to be mindful of people who have Ebola and limit their contact with those persons.  If anybody from Belize travels to any of the mentioned countries and believe that they are at risk they have a duty to really report to us that travel, that travel itinerary so that we can take the appropriate steps.”


While those procedures may be clinical in nature, Director of Health Services Dr. Michael Pitts says that the line of attack in preventing the sudden occurrence from spreading to Belize is multi-sectoral.


Dr. Michael Pitts

“The approach to Ebola is one that involves several sectors but clearly we need to have the [Belize] Airports Authority on board with us.  We believe if Ebola is to come to us it’s more than likely to come through that route.  We also have to pay attention to the border points because that is our frontier.  So we could see that we need to have the airports authority, the immigration [department] on board with us and, of course, the tourism industry etc…  Why I say tourism industry is because to a large extent they would be very familiar with the itinerary of visitors to our country and if they can be aware of the risky countries and could inform public health about those travelers who come from risky countries then we could take appropriate steps.”


That course of action, to whatever degree, seemingly lacks a defined system.  The aforesaid concern, health officials say, is duly noted.


John Bodden

John Bodden, Principal Public Health Inspector

“I would concede that, at this point it has been under discussion, as to how we strengthen the surveillance system at the points of entry throughout this country in reference to the Ministry of Health being the major responder and with the idea that we would be able to detect, assess and notify as needs be.”


But what if Ebola does find its way to Belize, is the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital medically prepared to deal with a crisis situation?


Dr. Michael Pitts

“We will identify isolation areas in our hospitals to deal with this matter.  In fact, our discussion is that in doing so we have to be mindful of the other healthcare needs.  And so, we are thinking that if we may not want to jeopardize, for example, the main hospital with isolation.  If you notice, most of the Ebola cases end up in an ICU.  We have one ICU in Karl Heusner.  We can’t jeopardize that so have to find an alternative setup to bring ICU-type care to those patients.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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