By Kadeem Joseph
With over 250 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox across 16 countries, doctors in Antigua and Barbuda are being warned to be vigilant, while residents are urged to seek assistance if they have symptoms.
That was the admonition from Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, who said she had notified local doctors of the need to be alert.
“The World Health Organization reported that monkeypox, which is usually seen in western and central Africa, has been seen in other countries globally,” she said.
“In the Americas, Canada and the United States have already reported cases and we know with travel it is only a matter of time before we may see cases in the Caribbean, and in Antigua and Barbuda.”
Monkeypox is a viral illness that is caused by a pathogen that exists in the same family of viruses as smallpox. Unlike in the case of smallpox, people with this ailment experience swollen lymph nodes about the body, including the neck, armpits and groin.
While this illness is less severe, people experience flu-like symptoms in the initial stages, including fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches.
A rash normally develops on the face and spreads to the rest of the body after one to three days.
The most notable symptom of the virus, which follows the first stage, is marked by the development of circular fluid-filled bumps – mainly on the hands, feet and face.
These itchy lesions that eventually crust over and fall off can last for two to four weeks, and could cause some level of scarring.
Dr Sealey-Thomas said, “I’m urging physicians to be vigilant and report, and for persons as well if you develop a fever, an atypical rash, pustules, vesicles [blisters], please seek medical attention as soon as possible… especially if you have a travel history.”
The WHO’s emerging disease lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove described the present spread of the disease as a “containable situation” during a media briefing on Monday.
Although this is the largest outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa in some 50 years according to global reporting, it is not easily transmitted from person to person.
This is welcomed news for many as the world continues to grapple with the spread of the highly transmissible Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19.
“Transmission is really happening from skin-to-skin contact; most of the people who have been identified have more of a mild disease,” Van Kerkhove said.