Deyalsingh: Monkeypox declared dangerous infectious disease

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Monkeypox on a child. Image via CDC.

CABINET has officially classified monkeypox as a dangerous infectious disease, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said in the Senate on Thursday.

He also made it clear the Government was not considering closing the borders, or the imposing of travel restrictions on people arriving in TT from countries with cases of the disease.

Monkeypox is a viral disease affecting rodents and primates in rainforest areas of West and Central Africa.It is related to smallpox and sometimes transmitted to people.

Monkeypox is transmitted person-to-person through direct skin-to-skin contact, contact with an infectious rash, or through body fluids or respiratory secretions.

Initial symptoms may might be similar to the flu, including fever, headache, muscle aches and backaches. Within one to three days of these symptoms occurring, people develop a rash or sores on their body.

Deyalsingh said, “Today, June 23. 2022. I, as minister of health, took a note to Cabinet, and the Cabinet approved and confirmed the note where we have added monkeypox to the list of dangerous infectious diseases, as we did for covid19.”

This will allow Government to invoke powers under the Public Health Ordinance and the Quarantine Act to isolate and treat suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox.

Deyalsingh said there are epidemiological differences between monkeypox and covid19.

“Monkeypox has a much lower rate of spread.”

He said 42 countries to date have reported monkeypox cases within their borders.

In those counries, Deyalsingh continued, “There is no overwhelming of the health systems as you saw with covid19.”

He said captains of aircraft and all marine vessels sign a declaration that there is no infectious disease on board.

“This is international protocol for all seagoing vessels and also all airlines.”

Deyalsingh said the case fatality ratio of the current strain of monkeypox is less than one per cent.

“So for those reasons and more, we are not at this time contemplating closure of borders.”

The ministry has been closely monitoring the situation since the first monkeypox cases were reported in the United Kingdom in May.

The ministry met with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) that month to discuss strategies to deal with the disease.

Deyalsingh said, “We alerted the public to the issue.”

Information was provided on countries with monkeypox cases.

“We also alerted the health care workers and the public to signs and symptoms (of monkeypox).”

Port health officers at Trinidad and Tobago’s airports and seaports are on high alert for people who are suspected to have monkeypox.