8 suspected monkeypox samples test negative

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE – This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin. –

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said eight suspected cases locally of the monkeypox virus tested negative for the disease. He said there are no other samples waiting for testing at this time.

Speaking at the ministry’s weekly media conference on Wednesday, Deyalsingh said the development of local testing capacity was part of the ministry’s preparation for the arrival of the monkeypox virus in Trinidad and Tobago.

“We have local capacity for testing and will continue to test as far as we have suspect cases. We have sent eight samples for testing locally and all have come back negative so far.

“We continue to urge people to be vigilant on the monkeypox front, to be aware of the modes of transmission which include intimate skin to skin contact, and via the sharing of clothes, sleeping on the same bed, using the same towels. Whether it’s clothes, bedding, towels – the virus can be transmitted in those surfaces – those things are to be avoided.”

Deyalsingh said the ministry has placed an indicative order with the Pan-American Health Organisation for 2,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine. He said there was no firm confirmation of prices or arrival date as yet.

“The vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, which means it could vaccinate approximately 1,000 people. The vaccines will be reserved for the close contacts of a confirmed case and any healthcare workers who want to be vaccinated against monkeypox.

“We anticipate a maximum of ten close contacts – relatives, work colleagues, etc, – of a confirmed case. Therefore 1,000 vaccines will vaccinate the close contacts of 100 cases. At the moment the entire Caricom region has approximately ten-15 cases in total, so while we are catering for 100 cases, the likelihood at this point in time of TT getting 100 cases is relatively low.”

Deyalsingh said if conditions warranted, more vaccines would be bought but currently there was no information available on the expiry dates or prices of the vaccines. He again called on larger nations who had access to monkeypox vaccines to make them available to smaller countries, noting that the five deaths from the disease so far have taken place on the African continent, where no vaccines were available.

The minister said no nation worldwide tests incoming travellers for the monkeypox virus. He said at TT’s ports of entry, thermal scanning remained in effect.

The monkeypox virus typically lasts two-four weeks. Asked how the issue of sick leave would be dealt with, as most employees received two weeks’ sick leave a year, Deyalsingh said that would be dealt with by other agencies.