MOH & BTB protecting tourists from Zika
Sunday, October 30th, 2016
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) have partnered with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to protect visitors from the scourge of Zika and other diseases like Chikungunya and H1N1, by launching the Belize Tourism and Health Program at the Radisson Fort George Hotel last Friday morning, October 21st.
Minister of Health Hon. Pablo Marin cited that protecting the health of Belizean tourism staff was key to the continued success of the industry, which is all important to the country’s economy. Equally important is to ensure the health of tourists that they may enjoy their stay in Belize without contracting any illness, nor introducing any infectious virus to Belize.
The CARPHA labs in Trinidad have been key to verifying cases of dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, so it was only natural that Belize should partner with CARPHA to fight these threats.
The program will require hotels to voluntarily cooperate in surveillance and monitoring of their guest’s health, to build up a data base of guests’ health information, so health authorities may get an early warning of possible threats.
The program calls for hotel and restaurant staff to be trained and certified in food and environmental safety, to avoid possible cases of food poisoning. The will also be a general certification program for hotels and resorts to meet defined health, safety and environmental standards. The program will also monitor and ensure the health of the tourism work-force to avoid the possibility of host to guest infection, and vice versa.
CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Program director, Dr. Lisa Indar, joined Marin at the launch. She said, “Health and safety does impact on tourism. Tourism and vice versa impact on health, safety and security. We want our visitors to come in, but they can bring diseases with them. First cases ZIKA, Chikungunya, H1N1 all came in through a visitor. So we want to ensure that if that happens that we have systems in place to identify very quickly so that we can have appropriate response. So you avoid spreading, you avoid negative publicity, you avoid it going into your population and overall you are reducing the impact on your country.”
Tourist arrivals have increased by 37 percent, but Chief Tourism Officer Abil Castenada in the Ministry of Tourism said it was important not to become complacent and to have a system in place to deal with all contingencies. “Sometimes we have had some of our guests at our properties, in the hotels or on the cruise ships and they feel ill. However the type of information is not taken in formally, so that there is no way for us to track where it is and what symptoms they were feeling and being able to correlate with possible diagnostic etc. and then be able to then pass that over to the public health, because if we talk about diseases such as Ebola, diseases like measles and other diseases that are highly communicable, then it’s an issue from a public health perspective that we need to have as much information so that we could know how to be able to stem the problem.”
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