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Director of Health says the corona-virus will come just like dengue, influenza and other viruses

The threat of COVID-19 has become more real for Belize as Mexico has reported multiple cases and over 50 countries around the globe have reported several cases.  In recent weeks several fake news has been circulated including cases of COVID-19 in Belize which has not been the case.  Director of Health Services, Dr. Manzanero spoke with Love News on the current situation as it relates to Belize.

The threat of COVID-19 has become more real for Belize as Mexico has reported multiple cases and over 50 countries around the globe have reported several cases.  In recent weeks several fake news has been circulated including cases of COVID-19 in Belize which has not been the case. Director of Health Services, Dr. Manzanero spoke with Love News on the current situation as it relates to Belize.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Guatemala doesn’t have any. There was indeed a fake news coming out through Whatsapp primarily more than social media, that has not been verified , I think their ministry came out to say that that was not true. We saw one of a person quarantined in Chetumal that is also not true, somebody who was quarantined here at Karl Heusner that came out last night early this morning, not true. But that doesn’t help, actually that is very detrimental to any response we are going to have because it’s wasting resources, we’re chasing all these rumors, people are getting tired chasing all these rumors so we’re asking people to be very cautious about that. Mexico does have six cases, they did have two on Friday; one in Sinaloa, one in Mexico City, they have subsequently had another one in Mexico City, one in Coahuila, one in Chiapas and I think the other one is in the state of Mexico but all of those have been imported cases and linked to Italy, as a matter of fact the one in Chiapas is from a student who was in Italy whose family decided to bring her home to protect her if you will and she brought back the virus so that’s the dynamics of the disease.”

As it relates to the transmission of the COVID-19, Dr. Manzanero says additional research and observation have brought a different conclusion on the spread in comparison to when the outbreak had just begun.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Lots of theories as to how it was transmitted. What we know now two months into the epidemic is that it is transmitted just like other flu viruses it’s not air borne. It’s usually transmitted from contact and usually coming in contact with vomit and all the things that people are going to be expelling when they are coughing or sneezing, hand to face contact. It hasn’t gone beyond the traditional pattern of flu viruses so it follows that same pattern which is why the same prevention measures with other viruses is what is being recommended. There’s levels of spread that you would have with any virus,any bacteria, any epidemic. One is when you have an imported case like what Mexico is having, they have six imported cases all linked to Italy. The virus has not spread or the disease has not spread beyond those six persons. A community spread would be once that person infects a group of persons usually family or those who are in close contact and those can spread it into the community or communities in which they live an interact that is when you have a community spread and it’s a sustained transmission going on. In the countries in the region except the US it seems to be just imported cases in Ecuador for example that one person has infected five others or that is what is known. The US is reporting that there seem to be cases in some states now happening where they don’t seem to have any link to anybody, that don’t know anybody who traveled, they themselves did not travel out of their community but they have COVID-19 that is a community spread. So what that usually means is that two things could have happened one is that somebody they came in contact with contacted with somebody who was in passing or was in one of the areas of concern and just the link was never made because they were asymptomatic or it came into the community in an asymptomatic carrier which means the person never developed any sign or symptoms and has spread in that community for a given amount of days or weeks which is one of the theories also in Italy that they may have been there for weeks and it’s only until now that they are picking up the cases.”

Dr. Manzanero noted that while the cruise ships are the easiest form of travel to screen due to a maritime health declaration and their medical staff onboard.  At the airports, however, the human resources are needed to screen at airports and other border points.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “In terms of what’s happening at the airport you will know that we had health staff that were deployed there and remained after the Ebola situation three or four years ago. What they have done is shifted what they do. So initially we were screening people primarily coming out of China, when we came up with the travel ban we extended it to other countries in the region; Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran where we made travel recommendations. But now that it’s spreading to more than fifty countries it doesn’t make that much sense to screen just about everybody so you’re basically going to look for symptomatic patients and see if they have any epidemiological link. It’s the same thing that is happening at the border post, the two primary ones which are northern and western, we don’t have health staff there but the immigration officers have a listing of countries that are of interest to us and then they would call us to go and give the clearance of whether you are symptomatic or not. Again, could you have patients that are symptomatic and still coming ? That’s going to happen I mean everywhere that is going to happen and most countries are not doing travel bans anyway, neighboring Mexico doesn’t have any travel bans so people can come in from any country. No public health agency actually recommends travel bans that is not part of routine health regulations. I know that the CDC and the US have done that, we have done it only for one country but even that is perhaps going to need to be revisited this week because China now has one month they have had a declining rate every week for the last four weeks so it probably doesn’t make sense to remain with that travel ban.” 

Recently, health officials have been talking about isolation once the virus reaches Belize.  Dr. Manzanero clarified that isolation does not necessarily occur in a health facility.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Isolation is a term that depends on who is defining it and what it means, for me isolation could even be at home which in point of fact can eventually happen because when you look at the cases in Mexico, the cast in Brazil, these people are not in a hospital they are isolated at home. The people who came from China, Belizeans who came back they were isolated at home so we didn’t keep them in a hospital and I don’t think we are envisioning keeping people who don’t deserve to be in a hospital, who don’t warrant being in a hospital, who are not that ill to be kept in a hospital because that’s I mean one is you can potentially infect persons in a hospital the way we are constructed that is and the other is that you can get other bacteria and complicate your COVID-19 case. I know some people were very much concerned because they want us to have isolation units like you have in the US and first world countries that is out of reality, that is not our reality that is out of touch, we are going to work with what we have. We don’t have those negative air pressure chambers that people wave their hand and everything opens we don’t have that and that’s the reality. What hospitals were asked to do at the local level which is community hospital and regional hospital and at Karl Heusner is identify areas where you can isolate two things the patient so that he is not in contact with the regular hospital staff and also isolation in terms of the staff isolated from other areas in terms of the flow of even how people go and the entry into the hospital. So I know there are some remodeling happening at Karl Heusner in terms of they will have a separate entrance, staff will be assigned if needed to that particular area but it’s not only being done for COVID-19 it’s for other influenza viruses. When we had the conjunctivitis outbreak a couple of years ago hospitals redirected their traffic so if you have conjunctivitis then you were seen in a separate area that is what we are aiming towards and again this is only for people who warrant in hospital care because I mean if I show up with COVID-19 and I just have a mild fever and mild symptoms then I don’t see that I would be in a hospital. People are asking, “Okay how do I care for you at home?” The usual measures in terms of ensuring that you’re not spreading it to others.”

Tune in tomorrow for more from the Director of Health Services on the Coronavirus – COVID-19.