Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Medical Chief of Staff Dr Nathaniel Duke says the island is preparing for the arrival of monkeypox.
“It is a matter of when it is going to come,” he said on Tuesday on the Tobago Updates morning show.
Saying all of Tobago’s health facilities have already started to prepare, Duke said THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael has also been chairing “a lot of high-level meetings” in this regard.
He said the TRHA’s clinical awareness programme will centre around what he described as the three I’s: identifying the virus; isolating oneself to prevent spread; and informing the relevant authorities of one’s condition.
People can contact the County Medical Officer of Health, Division of Health or Ministry of Health, he said.
Duke, an infectious disease specialist, said people must be concerned about monkeypox.
“We have to be more vigilant because we have a situation where we are still within a pandemic.”
To compound matters, he said the World Health Organization has confirmed over 13,000 cases in 69 countries, including, Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia.
Duke added, people living in the Caribbean usually travel to states like New York and Florida.
“New York has a lot of monkeypox cases.”
He said there are many misconceptions about the way the virus is spread.
“The issue now that we are facing is that we are seeing the virus is transmitted by men who have sex with men (MSM). But we do not want to categorise this virus as a gay virus as what I am hearing outside.”
Rather, Duke said, “The mode of transmission is close contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox.”
At present, he said, there is a lot of transmission among the MSM population in the United States and Europe.
“So that is why we have to be on heightened alert with respect to monkeypox.
Duke said the virus can be found in respiratory droplets.
Asked about the symptoms, he said, “Unfortunately, the symptoms are very non-specific. So flu-like symptoms – fever, headache, nausea, body pains. But then you have swollen lymph glands. Monkeypox characteristically produces a lot of swollen lymph nodes.”
He said the illness usually lasts for about two to four weeks, while the rash will occur within one to four days of becoming symptomatic. Symptoms can last for up to 21 days.
“But these are not carved in stone. It varies from person to person.”
Duke said the rash is highly infectious throughout all of its stages.
“Even when the rash is dry or crusted, it is still infectious. It is not until you have new skin or rejuvenated skin, you are no longer infectious.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said recently, measures are being put in place in the event the virus arrives in the country.
Monkeypox was first detected in the macaque monkey in 1958. The first animal-to-human transmission occurred in the 1970s.