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Ministry of Health warns against false WhatsApp message on COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant

Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2023. 10:57 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This evening the Ministry of Health and Wellness informed that it did not release a WhatsApp message currently circulating in Belize concerning the COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant, and asks that the message should not be shared further as it is demonstrably false and will cause unnecessary panic due to continued misinformation.

Among other things, the message, a copy of which has been received by Breaking Belize News, claims that the new subvariant of the virus is more deadly and less easy to detect, with the symptoms differing from earlier variants and thus necessitating greater caution to avoid catching it.

But the Ministry says it is advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the new subvariant is not more deadly than its cousins and that its symptoms are mild or similar to that of the flu. It does not say, presumably due to its lag time for genetic sequencing testing, whether the subvariant or other new subvariants have been detected in Belize.

It does not acknowledge that the positivity rate for COVID-19 has risen recently, reaching as high as 15 percent a few weeks ago and holding at 12 percent in the most recently announced batch of results. Still, the first hospitalizations were only recently recorded and there has been no significant increase in hospitalizations. As of January 3, there were 150 active cases of the virus nationwide and two persons were hospitalized.

Where the false message and the Ministry do agree in principle is in the following: those with flu-like symptoms are urged to get tested at the nearest health facility, and those who are especially vulnerable – anyone with a chronic illness, persons 65 years or older, and pregnant women – to utilize face masks, especially in enclosed areas, avoid crowded places when possible, and wash or sanitize hands regularly. The Ministry also urges the public to get vaccinated and/or a booster shot as soon as possible, and avoid sharing or listening to false medical information. In order to stay safe, get the facts from reliable sources.


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