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First case of monkeypox in Jamaica identified

By Chris Patterson

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) –  Jamaica has recorded its first confirmed case of monkeypox. The announcement was made during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, July 6, minister of health and wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, said the male patient who recently travelled from the United Kingdom is in isolation and is being treated.

“He presented to the public health system on July 5, having arrived on the island some five days earlier,” he said. The close contacts of the person have been quarantined following contact tracing “which will continue if necessary”.

Dr Tufton said the confirmation of the first case has triggered the country’s emergency protocols, which are in line with international health regulation protocols. This, he said, includes the activation of the country’s Emergency Operations Centre.

“A review of all isolation facilities is to be done to look at the capacity to manage both monkeypox and COVID-19 [coronavirus],” he said.

The minister further noted that the necessary health protocols, including surveillance, clinical management, lab management, as well as infection prevention and control, are being completed for the distribution to health teams islandwide.

He added that sensitisation of the health team and members of the public, which began more than a month ago, is being enhanced.

Meanwhile, Dr Tufton said the confirmation of the virus locally is not reason for Jamaicans to panic or become fearful.

“Given what has transpired globally… up to this point, discovery of one case doesn’t make or create a crisis. It certainly creates concerns and, indeed, we did expect, that is the health authorities, that… given the presence of the monkeypox disease on the global landscape, given the openness of our country – we travel a lot for business or otherwise – that there was always the possibility of a case turning up here; a case or two.

“Having said that, we do believe we have the capacity to respond, and particularly if Jamaicans play their part, so I do not envision the kind of response to the novel coronavirus when it came in March 2020,” he said.

Dr Tufton said maintenance of the COVID-19 protocols can help to reduce transmission of monkeypox, which is usually mild to moderate.

“All members of the public should wear a mask ideally where you feel exposed normally in public, frequently wash hands and practise physical distancing, so the protocols are pretty similar to the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, intense headache, swelling of the lymph nodes, back pain, muscle ache or general lack of energy or a rash. The incubation period is between five to 21 days.

He said persons experiencing any of these symptoms should call ahead before visiting their medical practitioner for examination and advice.

Chief medical officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said the ministry will ramp up its communication campaign, “and of course, increasing the awareness of the clinical healthcare workers in order for them to be able to provide help to our clients, so we will be having increased awareness sessions for our healthcare providers as well,” she said, Jamaicans to educate themselves so that they can increase their level of protection.

Dr Bisasor McKenzie informed that the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the virus recorded approximately 3500 cases with only one fatality. She noted, too, that Jamaica has the capacity to test for the virus through the support of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

The monkeypox virus is normally found in animals, but the disease may be transmitted from animals to humans. The virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.



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