Even as Jamaica confirmed its first case of monkeypox Wednesday, Ministry of Health and Wellness officials insist they are not considering to recommend new social interaction protocols.
The only recommendation offered by Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, during an emergency press conference to announce the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the island, was that Jamaicans must continue to observe existing COVID-19 protocols, which he said should be adequate to prevent widescale spread of the virus.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that originated in wild animals and jumped to humans. It can be transmitted among humans when people come in contact with other people or materials that are carrying the virus.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, backpain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and skin rash which generally shows up within one to three days of developing fever.
In response to Jamaica Observer questions at the press conference about what the public must do to protect itself in unavoidable close contact scenarios such as on buses and taxis, Tufton said, "there has been no adjustment and no consideration of adjustment as to how we operate in public transportation or otherwise".
He continued: "We have said, even before the first case was discovered, that your mask and distancing are always good options if you feel threatened and of course, sanitising. Normally, distancing is difficult depending on where you are in the public space. We are not prescribing any new arrangements. What we are doing is creating awareness, explaining and re-emphasising the approach and indicating to the populace that the public health infrastructure is prepared and we are dealing with each case. The public must take the necessary precautions for their personal protection".
Since Jamaicans have learned to live with COVID-19 since March 2020, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor- McKenzie said by now, people should be fully sensitised that diseases can be spread through close contact and also urged that prevention protocols be followed.
Without directly warning against attending parties and a wide range of entertainment events planned for usmmer, the CMO said it should be part of the norm by now, to avoid close contact to prevent the spread of diseases.
"We are still in a [COVID-19] pandemic and therefore we should be avoiding close contact because we don't know when a more severe strain is going to develop. For everybody going to parties, I hope they bear in mind that close contact is still to be avoided and you should use your precautions like wearing masks, hand sanitising and washing. I also say to people, stay home if you are feeling sick."
The CMO pointed out that there are no specific vaccines for monkeypox but the smallpox vaccine has proven to offer protection against monkeypox. However, there is a predicament in that since smallpox was eradicated, those vaccines are only available in small quantities. Bisasor-McKenzie said the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has been engaging manufacturers in case the need arises for mass production.
"There has not been a push as yet in terms of any massive production of smallpox vaccines because there is no recommendation for general vaccination to prevent monkeypox at this time. However, we are already in dialogue with PAHO.
“PAHO has been very proactive and we were advised, from May, that PAHO would have made contact with manufacturers, indicating that they are willing to purchase through the revolving fund through which we access vaccines. Preliminary discussions have been taking place and we are in close and continuous contact with PAHO in terms of new protocols and when these vaccines would be recommended," the CMO said.