Jamaica has recorded two additional cases of monkeypox, bringing the total to nine.
Both cases, which are locally transmitted, emanated from the parishes of St. Elizabeth and St. James.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, made the disclosure during Tuesday’s (September 6) sitting of the House of Representatives.
Monkeypox is a rare disease resulting from infection by the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is a zoonotic disease and is part of the family of viruses known as the variola virus, which causes smallpox.
The symptoms are similar to that characteristic of smallpox, but milder; monkeypox is rarely fatal.
“To date, the fatality rate this far internationally has been less than one per cent of the persons that have been infected. There have been no deaths associated with monkeypox in Jamaica,” Dr. Tufton said.
He noted that monkeypox is spread through close face-to-face, skin-to-skin, or direct contact.
Dr. Tufton further stated that this is currently what is known about the disease and “it is important that we highlight that while there are some conversations happening within the scientific community around this particular spread of the disease, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease”.
“Of the total number of persons that have been confirmed with the disease in Jamaica, two have been categorised through our epidemiological profiling as imported cases, while all other confirmed cases have been categorised as locally transmitted cases,” he informed.
The Minister advised that since the alert by the epidemiological unit and the subsequent declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry’s public health team has created a risk profile for the disease.
He said the main risks include the disease becoming endemic in country and, given that cases are locally transmitted, there is a high probability that more cases are within the population which are not detected by the public health system and may cause a slow spread.
Another concern is the high risk of stigma and discrimination being associated with the disease, resulting in under-detecting and late intervention for clinical management of severe cases, as well as the efficacy of containment measures, and the transmission/outbreak in other vulnerable populations, including school-aged children.
In identifying these risks, a management plan was developed in July 2022 that aims to achieve the following objectives: containment of monkey pox and elimination of the disease in country, to provide public education and social marketing strategies to optimise behaviour change and, increase the use of infection-prevention and control measures within the population.
Other objectives include managing the stigma and discrimination that may be associated with the disease; and the engagement of an all-of-society response to the disease.
Dr. Tufton informed that since June 2022, the Ministry, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) developed and implemented a programme of capacity development which ensured that the National Public Health Laboratory and the University Hospital of the West Indies had the ability to test for and categorise the virus.
“These test results are produced within 24 hours of the lab receiving the samples, and have played an integral role in the containment and management efforts of public health, as active cases can be identified and contact tracing can be done to ensure that persons in direct or close contact can be sensitised to the risks and be appropriately isolated or quarantined,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton indicated that, to date, the Ministry has quarantined more than 45 persons who have been identified as close contacts.