In urging Jamaicans not to panic in light of the island recording its first case of Monkeypox, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, says he does not envision the island returning to lockdowns to contain the virus locally.
In fact, Tufton is expressing confidence that health authorities are capable of treating and tracking the virus, due to its relatively mild nature.
“I am confident that given the nature of the virus, (and) given the nature of the virus globally, to date, discovering one case doesn’t make or create a crisis,” he said at the ministry’s emergency virtual press briefing on Wednesday.
Tufton said there was always the possibility that the country would record a case of Monkeypox, given that the country’s borders were opened and other countries continued to record cases of the virus.
“Having said that, we do believe that we have the capacity to respond and, particularly, if Jamaicans play their part. And so, I do not envision the kind of response to the novel coronavirus when it came on board in March 10, 2020,” he asserted.
“I believe that we can manage this current threat, and if we play our part, we can manage it in a way where we can continue to live our normal existence, whether (at) play or otherwise.
“I would say to Jamaicans, just play your part. God knows the country cannot deal with another extremity. We have a lot of side effects to this point from the COVID-19 pandemic. So, we are not only going to pray and ask God for guidance, but we gonna work to ensure that kind of guidance is taken advantage of by ourselves, and the role that we play,” declared Tufton.
To that end, the minister reiterated that Jamaicans have no reason to panic.
“This is not a reason to panic. It’s not a reason to be uncertain or scared. We informed you as soon as we got confirmation so that you are aware, and I think we have a duty to make you aware,” he said.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been notified of the health development, but in the interim, the country remains open for business, according to Tufton
“It is business as usual in terms of the functioning of the economy. The honourable prime minister and I spoke, and he is ready and always able to provide the leadership and guidance that is necessary,” said Tufton, adding that Cabinet has also been informed of the development.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, said the disease is milder than “what we are use to and what we are seeking so far across the world”.
Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie (file photo)
In stressing that persons should protect themselves by wearing a mask, physical distancing and covering any skin rashes, the CMO said public awareness and sensitisation will be increased.
The patient who tested positive for Monkeypox locally is a male who recently travelled from the United Kingdom. He presented to the public health system on July 5, having arrived on the island some five days earlier.
Bisasor-McKenzie said the man is from Clarendon, but there is no risk posed to the communities there, as all close contacts of the positive individual are presently in quarantine.
Like Tufton, the CMO said there is no need for panic in light of the presence of Monkeypox locally.
“This is the reason for not panicking; we don’t anticipate any risk. Our persons are on the ground as usual. We are very good at contact tracing, and we will uncover the cases and we will do our work to minimise the chance of spread to the population,” she outlined.
“This is a mild disease and it does require very close contact for transmission. Those are other reasons why persons should not panic. If you become sick, this is something that you can see, and therefore, you are spurred to action immediately in terms of isolating yourself,” indicated Bisasor-McKenzie.
In chiming into that leg of her response, Tufton warned that, “Panic leads to chaos… and we are not promoting chaos.
“We are promoting responsible behaviour in light of the new development,” he said, while urging persons with symptoms to present to a medical facility.
Tufton said the spread of Monkeypox may occur when a person comes into close contact with an infected animal or rodents.
Person-to-person spread is generally uncommon, but can occur through direct contact with Monkeypox skin lesions or scabs, contact with clothing or sheets or towels used by an infected person, as well as from cough or sneezing of an infected individual.
The virus enters the body through broken skin, even if not visible, or the mucus membranes (eyes, nose or mouth).
“The incubation period, as we understand it, is between five and 21 days. Symptoms, usually mild to moderate, can include fever, intense headaches, swelling of the lymph nodes, back pains, swelling, rash,” stated Tufton.