The Ministry of Health is aware of a new strain of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has been linked to cases of respiratory tract infections originating in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China – some of these cases have evolved to more severe cases.

Today, the National Surveillance Team, headed by the Director of Health Services Dr. Marvin Manzanero, participated in a virtual meeting hosted by the Caribbean Public Health Authority (CARPHA) to discuss the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak. Twenty other Caribbean member states also participated in the meeting.

Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Director, provided opening remarks to all participating countries, expressing that at this time the risk of transmission to the Caribbean is low based on what is presently known.

No confirmed case of the virus has been reported in the Caribbean or Central America; however, the outbreak is new and situations can change drastically on a day-by-day basis.

As of January 23rd, worldwide, there have been 571 confirmed cases of infections by this new strain of coronavirus and 17 deaths reported, all originating from the Hubei Province, China. The deaths are in individuals over the age of 65 years and associated with comorbidity. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also reported that 16 healthcare workers have been infected by the virus.

The illness resembles pneumonia with most patients having a fever and severe non-productive cough. Some have expressed difficulty breathing.

At this time, the Ministry of Health advises the public to follow its official updates. The Ministry is guided by advisories from CARPHA and PAHO/WHO.

Persons should continue practicing proper handwashing techniques; wash hands with soap and clean running water before and after eating, when using the bathroom and before preparing food.

Dr. Manzanero also emphasized that “Proper respiratory hygiene such as proper handwashing practice and also proper cough and sneeze etiquette remains the hallmark in addressing all other respiratory infections.” He also reminds all that there are currently no travel restrictions.

At the conclusion of an Emergency Committee meeting held this afternoon, the newest information from the WHO is that the outbreak has not been declared as a public health emergency of international concern.

Belize’s National Surveillance Team has been activated and the Ministry will remain vigilant to the developments and update the public as new information becomes available.