Monkeypox party warning
Officials caution against close contact, urge citizens to recommit to health protocols amid new threat
As plans for entertainment and other activities for the summer get into high gear, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie is warning party-goers to observe the well-established protocols to reduce the likelihood of transmitting infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and monkeypox.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is similar to smallpox and can be passed on by contact and droplet exposure.
At an emergency press conference yesterday hosted by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and other senior health officials, it was announced that a male who recently travelled from the United Kingdom had tested positive for monkeypox.
Tufton told journalists that the male presented to the public health system on July 5, having entered the country five days earlier.
The patient has been isolated and his close contacts have been quarantined following contact tracing.
Bisasor McKenzie noted that Jamaicans should by now be sensitive to the spread of diseases through close contact.
She also reminded the country that the COVID-19 pandemic was still around, noting that close contact should be avoided to prevent the spread of the disease.
Bisasor McKenzie cautioned that no one knows when a new and more severe strain will develop.
The evolving health threat comes as the local party season is preparing to shift into full gear with a heightened roll-out of summer parties and carnival, the latter attracting up to 100,000 revellers annually. Lockdown-weary partygoers and promoters hit by losses and meagre earnings since 2020 are seeking to indulge after the entertainment sector was placed on ice for the greater part of two years as the Government sought to keep COVID transmission rates in check.
The potential for these events to become super-spreaders is not lost on health officials as they urged caution during yesterday’s briefing.
“So for everybody who is planning to go out there and party, I should hope that they bear this in mind: that close contact is still something that is to be avoided and to use your precautions – the wearing of masks, sanitising, handwashing frequently to prevent contact,” Bisasor McKenzie said.
The chief medical officer urged Jamaicans who are sick to stay home as some of the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of COVID-19.
Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
“Once you recognise that you start to have a rash, then there is the possibility of monkeypox, even more reason for you to stay home,” she stressed, further advising Jamaicans to cover any kind of rash that develops on the skin in an effort to protect others.
The incubation period for monkeypox is five to 21 days, but Bisasor McKenzie explained that there is uncertainty as to whether a person can transmit the disease during this time.
She said studies were being carried out to determine at what stage during the incubation phase an infected person can transmit monkeypox.
“We certainly know that once persons become symptomatic and they start having respiratory symptoms, then through droplet spread, they can pass it on,” she said.
Meanwhile, the health and wellness minister said there would be no adjustments to how the public transportation system should operate in the wake of the island’s first confirmed monkeypox case.
The disease is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals. It does not usually spread easily among people.
More than 6,000 cases have been detected in at least 58 countries in the current outbreak after cases first began popping up in Europe and the United States in May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.
“I continue to be concerned by the scale and spread of the virus across the world,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday.