Ebola Screening to be implemented at island’s port of entry
Saturday, October 25th, 2014
On Friday, October 17th, San Pedro Health Officer, Lisa Tillett hosted a small seminar on the disease Ebola, which has only recently appeared in the Western Hemisphere. Present at the seminar were representative from Maya Island Air, Tropic Air, San Pedro Water Taxi, Caye Caulker Water Taxi, San Pedro Water Jets Express, Belize Customs and Exercises Department, Belize Immigration Department, as well as several concerned citizens. The seminar was aimed at sensitizing the attendees on the disease and explain the need to screen visitors who are coming to the island from any point of entry.
Also known as the “African Hemorrhagic Fever”, Ebola first appeared in Africa in 1976 and is a filovirus that infects humans and primates. Ebola causes severe fevers and internal and external bleeding that, if not treated immediately and properly, results in death. While the disease has been classified as highly contagious, it can only be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids from an infected person who is displaying symptoms or has fallen ill. The transmission can occur through a break in the skin, membrane or an open wound. Ebola has an incubation period of two to 21 days during which an infected person could seem healthy and display no symptoms.
As one of the most popular tourism destinations in Belize, Ambergris Caye sees an influx of people from around the world. As such, these travelers need to be screened for Ebola. “It’s better to be safe than sorry. That is what we need to understand, we are not here to scare anyone, but we need to take the necessary precautions. We need to start screening persons coming in from the airports and the water taxi terminals,” said Tillett. She also explained that persons handling travel documents should wear gloves to prevent the transmission of any disease. “Immigration and customs officers should wear gloves when handling passports and other documents. Have healthy practices, cover your mouth when you cough, and bandage any exposed wound. If you are feeling ill, visit the polyclinic or your private doctor; don’t wait until your symptoms worsen.”
According to Tillett, while there is no case of Ebola in Belize, it is still important for residents to practice precautions so as to ensure the safety of all Belizeans and its visitors. “Ebola would have a severe impact on our society, so we can’t take it lightly. If this disease were to spread, it would affect our trading, agriculture and tourism industry. Schools and businesses would have to close. The disease brings with it a stigma and worsens poverty,” said Tillett. Ebola patients are isolated to prevent further infection to other health persons. There are no known vaccines for the disease.
To learn more preventative steps on Ebola or to find out what you can do to make your business a healthier environment contact Health officer Lisa Tillett at 226-2555 or 605-6495.
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