CARPHA: No confirmed cases of monkeypox in the Caribbean

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According to the latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of confirmed cases of Monkeypox has exceeded 700 in Europe, Australia, North America, South America and the Middle East, where the virus is not endemic.

“To date, no confirmed cases of Monkeypox have been reported in the Caribbean region. However, the risk of spread in the Caribbean region is likely as travel returns to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. It is therefore important that CARPHA member states sensitize frontline health workers and be on the lookout for possible importation of cases so that they can initiate a rapid public health response,” said Dr Joy St. John, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Monkeypox is not a new (novel) virus, the first case having been identified in 1970. It is a rare viral zoonosis transmitted from animals to humans – which does not usually spread easily between people.

This virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, and vaccination against smallpox has been shown to be protective against monkeypox.

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The disease is spread by close contact and is clinically less severe and contagious than smallpox. However, the current outbreak of Monkeypox is of concern as it occurs in non-endemic countries.

CARPHA has signed an agreement with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to refer suspect samples from our Member States for testing while we are in the process of sourcing the necessary reagents to be able to implement molecular testing for Monkeypox (PCR).

Results can be received 10-14 days after samples arrive at CARPHA once referred to CDC. In the meantime, a commercial kit, the Monkeypox Virus (MPXV) Real-Time PCR (RUO) Kit produced by BioPerfuctus Technologies is in transit and once received will be checked for immediate use.

If Member States have suspected cases, they should contact CARPHA for information on sending suspected samples.

Dr Lisa Indar, Director of Disease Surveillance, Prevention and Control, urges Member States to remain vigilant for the importation of viral or other infections and to monitor in countries’ syndromic surveillance systems the increased fever and rash.

In addition, Member States should strengthen surveillance and investigation of cases of Monkeypox; alert port health officials to be vigilant for possible cases entering the country and develop and disseminate public education materials on Monkeypox as a re-emerging zoonosis.

The availability of smallpox vaccine in CARPHA Member States may be limited given that smallpox was declared eradicated by the WHO in 1980, and it has been more than 40 years since all countries stopped routine smallpox vaccination with vaccine-based vaccines.

Symptoms of Monkeypox include exhaustion, fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. If you have close physical contact with someone who has symptoms, you can contract Monkeypox. This includes touching and being face to face.

Dr. St. John advises people to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms. People should protect themselves by:

Practice good hand hygiene – clean hands, objects and surfaces that have been touched regularly

Avoiding skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact, including sexual contact with anyone with symptoms

If you think you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone infected with the virus, contact your doctor for medical advice and care.

CARPHA monitors the spread of disease and scientific understanding of prevention and control as it evolves over time.

If Monkeypox is identified in the Region, CARPHA will test samples from suspected cases, monitor the spread and provide assistance to its Member States through the creation of epidemiological investigation and surveillance tools, and staff are ready to respond in the country to help with the investigation. and control of an outbreak of Monkeypox, should the need arise.

Source: Caribbean Public Health Agency

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