MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton on Wednesday announced Jamaica's first confirmed case of monkeypox but urged Jamaicans not to panic as personnel and other resources have been mobilised to prevent a spread.
While the minister and Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie pledged to do their part to prevent a spread, the public was urged to play its role by practising the proper washing of hands and social distancing. The prevention guidelines announced by the minister and his team were very similar to the protocols set to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tufton said he was not anticipating any major disruptions to the lives of Jamaicans and shrugged off suggestions that the country could be subjected to lockdowns.
During an emergency press conference Wednesday the minister said, "The patient is a male who recently travelled from the United Kingdom. He presented to the public health system on July 5, having arrived on the island five days earlier. The patient has been isolated after having confirmatory tests done and his close contacts quarantined following contact tracing. The confirmation of this first case has triggered our emergency protocols in line with international health regulations and protocols. Among other things, our emergency operations centre has been activated."
Tufton told journalists that a review of all isolation facilities will be carried out to determine the country's capacity to manage monkeypox and COVID-19 simultaneously. He said material outlining the necessary protocols, including surveillance, clinical and lab management, as well as infection prevention and control are being completed for distribution to health teams islandwide.
"Sensitisation of health teams and the public, which began more than a month ago, is being enhanced," Tufton said.
During his presentation, the minister failed to announce the parish in which the first case had been discovered. However, after being prompted by a question from the Jamaica Observer Dr Bissasor-McKenzie confirmed that the individual was staying in Clarendon. She sought to calm fears and gave assurance that health teams will efficiently carry out contact tracing where necessary.
"... We have started contact tracing and would have quarantined the very close contacts. In terms of specifics, we are not going to give that information because we do not think it is necessary at this time. We do not anticipate any risk to the communities that are involved.
"That is the reason for not panicking, because we don't anticipate any risk. Our people are on the ground as usual. We are very good at contact tracing, and we will uncover the cases and we will do our work to minimise the chance of spread to the population. This is a very mild disease and it does require very close contact for transmission. The other reason is that, if you become sick, this is something you can see, and therefore you are spurred to action immediately in terms of isolating yourself," she said.
Tufton, meanwhile, said that once the protocols are followed the nation should be able to work its way through it all.
The minister said person-to-person spread is generally uncommon, but can occur through direct contact with monkeypox skin legions or scabs; contact with clothing or linen, such as bedding or towels used by an infected person; or through coughing or sneezing by an individual with a monkeypox rash. The virus enters the body through broken skin, even if not visible; the respiratory tract or the mucus membranes; eyes; nose; or mouth.
"The incubation period, as we understand it, is between five and 21 days. Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and include fever, intense headache, swelling of the lymph nodes, back pains, muscle ache, general lack of energy, or a rash.
"We encourage Jamaicans experiencing any of these symptoms to see their medical practitioner for examination or advice," said the health minister.
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