Belize City, 31 October 2011 - Belize City, 31 October 2011 - The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is providing technical cooperation to the Ministry of Health to strengthen surveillance of communicable diseases in Belize in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR).
Based on the self- assessments of core capacities in surveillance, detection and public health response and at designated airports, seaports, and ground crossings, 2 action plans were developed. These action plans are currently being implemented for the IHR to meet its IHR (2005) obligations and deadlines.
Up to date actions undertaken include the training of national and sub-national teams in rapid response and containment methods. Two cohorts of trainees trained through the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) Basic Level. Laboratory capacity has been improved for surveillance of food borne pathogens, including salmonella, shigella, E. coli, campylobacter, staphylococcus, and norovirus as well as capacity for surveillance of respiratory viruses by immunoflouresence and dengue virus. A new Microbiology Laboratory under construction at the Western Regional Hospital expected to be completed before the end of this year, will further enhance surveillance capacity.
A health care unit has been established at the Phillip Goldson International Airport, the country’s largest point of entry for air travel. This unit will function in the capacity of providing first care to ill travelers, or travelers suspected of having an infectious disease of international concern, including triage, screening, initial treatment. The establishment of this unit was in response to the pandemic influenza A/H1N1 outbreak.
A health facility response plan to pandemic influenza and other similar public health events has been developed for the national referral hospital, and will be used as a template to develop response plans for other health facilities in the country.
According to Melissa Helferty, Consultant, PAHO/WHO Belize, there are many collaborative projects currently underway to strengthen both laboratory and routine surveillance. Such projects include strengthening of surveillance for rotavirus and pneumococcal disease to assess the burden of illness in children less than five years of age as well as strengthening nosocomial and infection control practices across the country.
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