Belize denies visiting Chinese national had contracted coronavirus

Health authorities here have denied reports that a visiting Chinese national had contracted the deadly coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people in the Asian country.

The Ministry of Health said that the unidentified visitor had been screened and was given the all-clear, after residents in Caye Caulker, a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea, began complaining that the visiting Chinese national had contracted the virus.

Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero, said investigations in the area had shown that many people had exhibited symptoms of the common flu, such as dry cough, fever, body aches.

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Director of Health Services, Belize, Dr Marvin Manzanero

“That’s what is being documented as more information becomes available that it may be other symptoms. When we review the mortality situation, we found out that most of the patients that had other chronic diseases—diabetes, hypertension—and it seemed to be older patients that were dying. I think the average (age) of those when we reviewed the data last week was 65.”

The Ministry of Health said it has activated its National Surveillance Team to monitor the coronavirus outbreak and that led to the detection of the suspected case on the island of Caye Caulker.

Media reports said that the tourist from Beijing, China arrived in the country on January 27 and exhibited flu-like symptoms.

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“We carried out a full investigation on this case. The patient is a young man visiting from Beijing, China. He arrived at the Philip Goldson International Airport and went straight to Caye Caulker,” said Melinda Guerra, the regional health manager of the Central Health Region.

“The rumours were out there that this patient had signs and symptoms of coronavirus. So immediately we launched an investigation and the patient was examined, had a physical examination by our medical officer there…and it was determined that the patient is not ill. The patient does not have fever, cough or no signs of respiratory illness.”

Guerra said the visitor had been screened before leaving China, upon transiting the United States and at the Philip Goldson International Airport

“We have our public health inspectors on a day-to-day basis there at the airport. For right now, we have the immigration form that we are using where in that form it has the nationality of the person, the countries that person has visited and the point of origin, from where the person is actually coming. We screen the patients; we keep our officers up to date as to the countries that are presenting cases of coronavirus so that we are aware,” she said.

“We screen the patients; we keep our officers up to date as to the countries that are presenting cases of coronavirus so that we are aware.”

— Melinda Guerra, Central Health Region

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has issued advice to health authorities on measures to reduce the risk of importation of the disease to the Caribbean region, as well as advice to Caribbean travellers in the affected area in China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said there have been imported cases being reported by the United States and other countries including Thailand and the Republic of Korea.