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Oct 15, 2014

Is Belize Really Prepared for an Ebola Outbreak?

On major international news agencies, the news today was about Ebola and how countries are preparing to deal with any eventuality. The virus has been detected close to the Jewel in Dallas, Texas. The U.S. today went into emergency mode to coordinate a response in case of an outbreak. Elsewhere, in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia is banning visitors from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. To the west, Guatemala is also monitoring its borders checking the travel background of visitors. As it relates to the local Ministry of Health, we were told today that there was no one to respond to our questions about any plan or resources in place to deal with a possible threat. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports. 


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The threat of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease locally remains a real possibility, despite the fact that there have been no cases of the deadly strain diagnosed in Belize so far.  The risk is primarily centered around the travel industry where scheduled flights depart from and arrive at the Phillip Goldson International Airport daily.  A majority of those trips are bound for the United States, either as the final destination or to connecting flights elsewhere.  The U.S. being the hub of transnational air traffic for Belize, poses a degree of concern particularly since an American Airlines flight commutes regularly between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and the PGIA.  Dallas, as you may know, has recorded a third Ebola diagnosis.  The identification succeeds a domestic flight from Ohio to the Texan city and is presently raising questions about the stateside effort to control the disease.  While the likelihood of other passengers being infected with the disease was very low, the nurse who treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, also diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, should not have been onboard the local flight.  That is according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The fact that twenty-nine-year-old Amber Vinson was exposed to the same virus which later killed Duncan and was allowed to travel interstate, among a hundred and thirty other passengers, is now calling to question the handling of Duncan’s case, as well as its outcome by both the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the CDC.


Here in Belize City, a press conference was held last Tuesday where it was announced that a similar initiative will be led by the Ministry of Health and will include the Immigration Department.  This is in spite of serious concerns that the department is somewhat sluggish and a little too rigid when working with other agencies.


Michael Pitts

Dr. Michael Pitts, Director of Health Services

“I met with Mr. Defoe from NEMO to say that look, we have to look at Ebola as this potential threat to the country and he coming from the organization that organizes and bring together all the people.  I asked him that he uses his office to ensure that when we call out Immigration that we have their person who would make the right decision at the table with us.  In the past we had gotten support but at this point in time we don’t have the full support that I believe this one needs but we’re having some urgent meetings over the next ten days with those stakeholders to get it.”


In the Caribbean, the government of St. Lucia has implemented flight restrictions for countries that have recorded Ebola diagnoses.  Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has advised the Commissioner of Police to immediately carry out an embargo on all visitors from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Meanwhile in Jamaica, an Integrated National Coordinating Team, led by the Ministry of Health and the Jamaica Defence Force, has been organized to spearhead the country’s heightened preparations in the event of an outbreak.


Dr. Michael Pitts, Director of Health Services, agrees that there needs to be a similar multi-agency approach taken in Belize.


Dr. Michael Pitts

“I agree with you that there needs to be a multi-agency response and in fact that is what, through the, I maybe used the words and haven’t developed it but when we look at international health core capacity it speaks to multi-agency and this is what Mr. Bodden helps to coordinate where you bring together Customs, Immigration, Civil Aviation, Tourism, the ports agent and the shipping agent, all of those people together in one forum to identify the different activities.  In fact, over time we have been doing that to assess those core capacities and look at where the weaknesses and where the strengths are.”


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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10 Responses for “Is Belize Really Prepared for an Ebola Outbreak?”

  1. orangewalkeno says:

    Instead of giving away monies to pay debts owed by individuals to the banks,govt. must invest in protective materials,prepare quarantine rooms and all necessary needs to prepare for any ebola case.Don’t play with our people and immigration dept.must investigate if any individual from these African infected regions got Belizean passport because they could easily enter our country risking our people.Another reason why Penner and others like him must be in jail for illicit hustling.Time for minister hustle to act now

  2. Hatari says:

    Are we prepared for Ebola? Right. Name one thing that we ARE prepared for! Being negative again? No just being realistic.

  3. Harry says:

    Get ready to die Belize-we are not ready-ban all the africans coming from Salvador-dont worry about the ones coming from the US-they will stay there-it is all those Nigerians and other africans coming through central america trying to get to US for treatment. Belize airports, immigration and health officials are as bumbling buffoons will cause us to die. who cares about human rights when there is none of us left to enjoy them. Lock them up too

  4. Al Rich says:

    If Belize could not contain the bacteria that killed so many babies how will they fight Ebola. This government is so uneducated they have no idea how and what to do in case of crisis. There we should have already been a plan in place.

  5. Why? says:

    why has Belize not established traveling/travelers protocol? The UN said it, this disease is ahead of us!! Prevention is the only way to win this disease!! We need to take action now!!

  6. alpha says:

    no Belize is not ready. Belize health system is so deficient in tracking diseases as well as ignorant and incompetent. That few days ago they stated that we didn’t had one single case of chikungunya when in Beque viejo residents can very well tell you it is not true. it is so deficient that they are not aware of the cases.

  7. belize lover says:

    This is all like a scary movie noone wants to be in… government can prepare for preventions and so many other stuffs, treatments if it is so.. BUT GOD GIVES THE LAST WORD…. we must pray for God’s protection and also for the government so he may be used with wisdom so he may know what to do.

  8. Corozal Buay says:

    What is wrong with you people.
    You should know our Minister of Health Pablo Marin is an expert in health matters (and electricity) and will make sure Ebola is wiped out before it wipes out Belizeans. LOL

  9. Liberty and Freedom says:

    At least Belize has stopped the Carnival Cruise ship from disembarking passengers in Belize. The first time I can give kudos to GOB. No, Belize is totally unprepared for a pandemic. Other than handing out aspirin, Belizeans are screwed. Let’s not panic – yet. More people are killed in auto accidents than die from Ebola. For all the people who believe in population control -.. eugenics,
    here is the answer. It appears Obama wants to spread Ebola based on his inaction and not closing off travel from/to the West African countries who have any cases of Ebola. Until 1915 the USA had quarantine centers away from the mainland until immigrants were screened for smallpox and other contagious diseases. They also have a highly paid Pandemic Czar – Dr. Nicole Lurie. Makes speeches, not much else. What ever happened to the Wold Health Organization?? They are probably hiding in a cave somewhere other than Belize.

  10. jz says:

    if belize is not ready for cancer and the reast of disease what do u think about ebola

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