As health authorities await test results from a suspected Monkeypox case, Minister of Health Ian Gooding-Edghill has confirmed that the country now has capabilities to test for the virus here.
And he has assured that authorities are fully prepared to handle any cases and would take steps to prevent any spread, while the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) has urged residents to be extra cautious as they attend Crop Over events.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George on Tuesday disclosed to Barbados TODAY that there was a suspected case of the disease – in which a Barbadian male with no travel history presented with signs of lesions on his body – and samples were sent for testing.
Minister Gooding-Eghill said on Wednesday that while samples from two previous suspected cases were sent off to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for testing, and returned negative, the latest case is being tested locally.
“The Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory recently acquired the capacity to do the diagnostic test for Monkeypox and will therefore be conducting tests locally on any suspected cases. This ability by Best-dos Santos is a major accomplishment of which the Barbados health service can be justifiably proud and should be a source of comfort to all Barbadians,” he said.
“For full disclosure, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will update the public on the results of the one sample which was sent to the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory.
“To date, there have been no confirmed cases of Monkeypox in Barbados. The Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to maintain transparency whilst adhering to patient confidentiality,” Gooding-Edghill assured.
He further assured that his Ministry will continue to take all necessary precautions to minimise the risk of any disease outbreak in Barbados, and stressed that there would be no vaccination drive at this time.
“There are no vaccines available in Barbados for Monkeypox. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that mass vaccination is not required nor recommended for Monkeypox at this time. Human-to-human spread of Monkeypox can be controlled by public health measures, including early case findings, diagnosis and care, isolation, and contact tracing,” the Health Minister said.
“The absence of vaccines should not cause undue alarm since Monkeypox is rarely fatal. The Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to follow the WHO guidance as part of the global response. Any person presenting pox symptoms will be clinically assessed, and swabs may be taken for testing, and the patient would be required to isolate as a risk mitigation measure.”
Gooding-Edghill said the Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to pay very close attention to the global outbreak.
He noted that from the time “this new threat to global health” emerged, the Ministry swung into action by taking the very important step of sensitising its public health professionals who are responsible for public health management.
“Let me assure the public that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is fully prepared to handle any cases of monkeypox in our nation. In addition, the Ministry’s Port Health staff will continue to conduct public health surveillance at our ports of entry,” he said.
“The Ministry’s public health team is well trained on surveillance and detection, and as has occurred in the past when faced with any global outbreaks of infectious diseases, this team will continue to monitor our borders and protect public health in Barbados. Please be aware that any travellers arriving at any of our ports with any pox symptoms will be assessed and investigated accordingly. ”
“Our state of readiness will also involve sensitising those workers who help us to maintain border control, such as Immigration, Customs, Barbados Port Inc., Grantley Adams International Airport, and others who perform a critical role at our ports of entry,” he added.
Meanwhile, BAMP President Dr Lynda Williams has cautioned residents to be extra careful regarding the risks of contracting Monkeypox during Crop Over mass gatherings, noting that the symptoms of the disease can be subtle.
“As a result, sanitisation should be upheld, and given that it is a respiratory droplets infection, the wearing of masks should also be maintained especially in close contact,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Dr Williams advised Barbadians not to wait until any potential symptoms of the virus become prominent, but to report to their doctor or health clinic at the slightest hint of a potential case.
Monkeypox is a disease that is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox and can be contracted through close intimate contact of an infected person.
Symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, but milder, and it is rarely fatal. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks. Sometimes people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms, while others only experience a rash.