Concern lingers internationally over the spread and handling of Ebola which has now become the deadliest outbreak in West Africa, according to officials. The virus was first detected in 1976 and up until March of this year it was relatively dormant.
The virus was detected in West Africa in March this year and BBC reports that by October 23rd, four thousand nine hundred and twenty-two people were reported as having died from the disease. These deaths have been recorded in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the United States. The number of cases detected is in excess of ten thousand, according to the BBC.
However, reports state that the World Health Organization admits the numbers are underestimates, and has warned that this number can be doubled by November if the efforts to mitigate the outbreak are not stepped up. The epidemic has sent countries across the globe into action, including Belize. Not long ago there was an Ebola scare when a passenger onboard a cruise ship was reported to have been low risk and needed to be airlifted to the US for active monitoring.
The news spread in a matter of hours and the public was thrust into anxiety. Government informed the country however, that the matter was handled with the country’s citizens’ safety, as a top priority. It was later announced that the woman who was in the ship tested negative for the Ebola virus. The scare though, prompted swift action by the government and several measures have since been set in place within the health and immigration departments. These measures are now trickling down to every department around the country as frontline health providers and workers at other government departments are taking part in the emergency plan. Today, traffic officers sat a session at the Northern Regional Hospital on Ebola. Doctor Jair Osorio, Medical Chief of Staff at the Northern Regional Hospital, is among the hospital personnel conducting the sessions.
Jair Osorio – Medical Chief of Staff, NRH
“We have started several activities, about a month ago the ministry of health had started a meeting with heads of departments, technical advisors and the management team of several hospitals in regard to what are the plans we need to do with Ebola, we need to develop an emergency plan something that we need to go by in case somebody comes Ebola or we have an outbreak of Ebola in one of our communities in Belize, so as part of the activities we here at Northern Regional we already started with certain activities, last week we started with sensation of Ebola and infection control measures in regards to Ebola and how we need to go about in regards to handling patients and how it goes about to implement certain measures in order to protect ourselves. The sessions include explaining to them what is going on with the outbreaks, what is Ebola? How to identify Ebola? How to protect themselves from Ebola, so these are the activities that we are currently doing at this side of the country, we do know that in the other districts they have similar activities as we going to be as well doing some future planning in having meetings with the head of departments from different stakeholders not just medical but as well as none medicals in order for us to come up with a plan, a local plan that will be similar to what is already being develop at the national level which is a national plan in regards to addressing the issue of Ebola if it ever comes into Belize.”
Doctor Osorio says that they will be holding sessions with Immigration, Customs, police, BAHA, and even NEMO personnel. The efforts don’t stop here though. Dr. Osorio says that they are also in contact with international partners and consultants in the process of devising the best possible action plan. The Pan American Health Organization is also helping with procuring the health kits for health care providers.
Jair Osorio – Medical Chief of Staff, NRH
“Currently, they have had international session, forums that are going on where they as well are developing to improve their protocols, their policies and their guidelines so we as well are following up on those forums and sessions and conferences that they are doing internationally in order for us to go ahead and make our own plan.”
Dr. Osorio says the community will be kept abreast of the developments in the country’s preparedness for any eventuality but that the public can do their part as well to help in these efforts.
Dr. Jair Osorio – Medical Chief of Staff, NRH
“What we ask from the community and what the community can do with us 1. If they have been in contact with somebody who has Ebola, if they have travelled to one of the countries that is affected currently by the Ebola outbreak then they need to realize that within the span of 21 days that if they start with the symptoms they need to report to the health authorities that they have been showing symptoms similar to what is presented with the Ebola disease. It is normal for us to fear and it is normal for us to react in certain way, even the fly outbreak or the dengue, any disease that would cause an outbreak where many people will be affected will create a fear. At this moment I would advise the general public that they remain calm and we are a country that has at the moment has a low risk for Ebola to come in, we have already implemented in certain instances for instance surveillance occurring at the port of entry; international airport and the other borders, we are seeking people that are coming from countries that are affected with the outbreaks and people who might have been in contact with persons, so we have already been surveillance in that activity the surveillance of that, we have already reduce somehow the risk for somebody to come in into the country and we have the activity that the ongoing planning that we have that in the event that we do have Ebola in the country then we would know what exactly to do in regards to this.”
The disease was first seen in a two year old who died on December sixth in 2013 in Meliandou, a small village in south-eastern Guinea. By March this year, hospital staff at Guinea alerted the Ministry of Health and the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres about what they called a mysterious disease in the south eastern regions of the country. They described the symptoms in patients as fever, diarrhea and vomiting and having a high death rate as fifty-nine people out of eighty-six cases had died. The WHO later confirmed this mysterious disease as Ebola.
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