Screen_Shot_2014-10-07_at_7.50.18_PMThe second part of the Ministry of Health’s press briefing was to give the media a rundown on the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has been wreaking havoc in Western Africa. The current outbreak in West Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.

 

It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (1 traveller only) to Nigeria, and by land (1 traveller) to Senegal. And while there is no known cases of the deadly Ebola virus in the Caribbean, officials say that the region including Belize should not rest on its laurels. Reporter Maria Novelo has this story in the following report.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


Ministry of health officials have agreed that the risk of the escalating Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) being imported to the Region is low. This however, is no reason for nations of the bloc not to familiarize themselves with the matter and disseminate the necessary information. Director of Health Services, Dr. Michael Pitts, says that the virus is transmitted via body fluids.


Dr. Michael Pitts – Director of Health Services, MOH


“Ebola is one of those diseases that have high fatality when we compare it to Chkiungunya which has low fatality so they are of importance because of for two different reasons, Ebola is a diseases  that is transmitted through body fluids, is not transmitted by casual contacts but essentially body fluids like blood, semen, saliva, urine faeces are the principal mode.”


Certain public health approaches will be taken by the Ministry of Health to ensure that several mechanisms are in place to mitigate the potential impact of the disease’s arrival.


Dr. Michael Pitts – Director of Health Services, MOH


“These include voluntary isolation for state supported quarantine as the level of threat increases or changes over time, in addition there is some common sense approach which we need to take, our population need to know the high risk areas where Ebola is and it is advisable where on essential travel isn’t done to those areas for people who need to travel then the advice is that they have to be mindful and limit their contact with those persons.  The approach to Ebola is one that involve several sectors but clearly we need to have the airport authority with us because we believe Ebola is come to us is more than likely to come through that route and we also have to pay attention to the border points because that is our frontier so we need to see that we have airport authority, immigration on board with us and of course and the tourist industry because to a large extent they will very familiar with the itinerary of visitors to come to our country and if they can be aware of the risky countries and could inform public health about those traveller who come from risky countries then we could take appropriate steps.  One of the gaps that we identified is that we believe that each of these events is showing us that perhaps we need to do something more and we are planning to get public health inspectors up at the airport to assist the Customs and Immigration people reviewing.”


First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.


While the virus, for which there is no vaccine, is confined mainly to Central and South Africa, the Ministry of Health is continuing to monitor the situation and advising the general populace to continue their efforts to attain a high level of preparedness for a possible, though unlikely, introduction of an Ebola case in Belize.

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