Statement from HOA: Minister of Health and Social Development – Outbreak of monkeypox cases in non-endemic countries

STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE MARLON PENN
MINISTER OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
DURING THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE FOURTH
VIRGIN ISLANDS ASSEMBLY HOUSE

THURSDAY 26E MAY 2022

OUTBREAK OF MONKEYPOX CASES IN NON-ENDEMIC COUNTRIES

Madam Speaker, Ministry of Health officials are monitoring developments related to the unusual detection of monkeypox cases in countries where the virus does not normally spread, especially given our reliance on international travel and tourism.

As of May 21, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported ninety-two (92) laboratory-confirmed and twenty-eight (28) suspected cases of monkeypox in 12 of its member states where the virus n is not endemic. Monkeypox is not a new virus, the first case having been identified in 1970. It is regularly found in several countries of Central and West Africa.

This particular outbreak has drawn international attention because cases have been

confirmed in several different countries at the same time and in people with no reported travel history to countries where the virus is usually present. Additionally, while investigations are ongoing, early information shows that a high proportion of cases have been identified within sexual networks. Monkeypox is however not a sexually transmitted disease. It is spread through close contact with infected people or items that have been in close contact with infected people.

The first case of this outbreak was announced on May 7, 2022 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The original patient is believed to have contracted the infection during a recent trip to Nigeria. From May 6 to 20, twenty (20) people were confirmed to have monkeypox in England. Since then, cases of monkeypox have been reported outside England in at least 11 other countries –

Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and United States. A WHO technical advisory group held an emergency meeting on Friday, May 20, 2022 to discuss the current situation of the monkeypox outbreak, indicating that WHO recognizes that further spread is likely and that countries must take precautions.

Madam President, there is a risk of spread in the Caribbean region due to travel. Therefore, awareness raising is ongoing among healthcare workers and port health authorities in the region to ensure that adequate prevention and control measures are in place. There should be increased surveillance for communicable diseases and follow-up for any reported cases of rash-like illness with fever. People with monkeypox initially develop symptoms such as exhaustion, fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Rashes also develop within 1 to 3 days of the onset of fever, first on the face, then on the hands, feet, and other parts of the body. Symptoms can last 2-4 weeks and their severity depends on age. A more severe disease occurs in young children.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox and the smallpox vaccine provides some protection. However, the smallpox vaccine is not widely available and is no longer on the immunization schedule. Any guidance will be provided by PAHO/WHO on the matter, if needed.

Monkeypox testing is not currently available in the Caribbean and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is reportedly in discussion with PAHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess its ability to develop this screening capacity. In due course, CARPHA is expected to inform Member States when capacity will be available and how samples will be processed.

In terms of local response, the Ministry of Health will coordinate the dissemination of information to agencies involved in port health and animal quarantine, as well as to healthcare providers and regional counterparts. Many of the specific actions recommended by CARPHA are in place in GVIs and scaled up in response to COVID-19.

Madam President, although the likelihood of the spread of monkeypox in our community is currently low, the Chief Medical Officer and other officials will continue to monitor the situation and ensure the territory is ready to detect and respond. respond to any cases as needed, and will keep the community informed of any changes in the situation.

Thank you Madam President.

Joel C. Hicks