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Ministry of Health Monitoring Global Increase in Cases of Monkeypox

The Ministry of Health and Social Services is today alerting residents to a global increase in monkeypox cases.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection primarily spread from animals to humans. It is common in central and Western Africa. However, as of 21 May 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 92 laboratory confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox in 12 of its Member States, where the virus is not usually found and in persons with no travel history to Western or Central Africa.

A notable proportion of the cases identified to date have been among men who have sex with men (MSM). Indicating that intimate contact may be fueling the spread of the virus and prompting caution particularly with new sexual partners.

According to local health officials there are currently no reported cases in the Caribbean region and the threat level is at this time considered low. But as international travel increases to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, the Caribbean region, Montserrat included, faces an associated increased risk of imported cases of monkeypox.

It is in this context that the Ministry of Health is raising awareness among residents and moving to increase the capacity of the health care system to respond effectively should a case of the disease arrive on island.

Residents should familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms as this can aid in quick identification, treatment, and containment of the illness. People with monkeypox initially develop symptoms which include exhaustion, fever, headache, backache, muscle ache, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed by a rash similar in appearance to scabies or chickenpox. The disease is generally mild, and most people will make a full recovery.

Any person experiencing an unfamiliar rash like illness should seek medical attention immediately.

The smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are useful in preventing mass outbreaks of the disease however, smallpox vaccines are no longer available in the region since the eradication of the disease in 1980 and vaccination against monkeypox is not included in our local routine
immunization programme.

The Ministry of Health is awaiting the Pan-American Health Organization’s (PAHO) immunization guidance as part of the contingency plan against monkeypox.