Trinidad and Tobago continues to dodge monkeypox

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. –

WHILE the western hemisphere’s most populous countries continue to grapple with the number of new monkeypox cases being reported daily, Trinidad and Tobago and most of its close neighbours continue to be spared from the viral disease.

The Dominican Republic, Jamaica (seven each); Cuba, the Bahamas, Guyana, Aruba (two each); and Bermuda, Curacao, Guadeloupe and Martinique (one each), are the only other Caribbean states or dependencies to have reported cases of monkeypox since the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern in July.

Cuba is the only of these states with a death attributed to the virus.

TT’s closest neighbour Venezuela has also been largely spared with only three reported cases and no deaths thus far.

However, not much further away, PAHO has recorded 5,409 cases and two deaths in Brazil, as of September 6, a figure still eclipsed by the US’s 20,733 cases and no deaths.

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne gave an update on the virus at the organisation’s press briefing on covid19 and other health issues in the region, on Wednesday.

Etienne said the virus needed to be addressed, “since the Americas have once again become the epicentre of a global disease outbreak.

“Our region is now home to the highest burden of monkeypox cases worldwide.”

In June, the health ministry added monkeypox virus to the list of dangerous infectious diseases in TT.

This country is among many in the region to have requested a share of vaccines.

In August, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said his ministry had placed an order with PAHO for 2,000 doses of the vaccine.

“During an August special session of the PAHO directing council, member states requested support in obtaining access to the monkeypox vaccine,” Etienne said.

“Since then, PAHO’s revolving fund for our vaccines secured doses, making ours the first WHO region to make monkeypox vaccines available to member states.”

However, since the vaccines are limited, Etienne said PAHO has recommended that member states prioritise available doses for high-risk groups.

Over 30,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in the Americas thus far.

PAHO’s figures indicate that 93 per cent of overall confirmed cases in the hemisphere are concentrated in the US, Brazil, Peru and Canada. Approximately 97 per cent have been males, mostly between 25 and 45, and primarily but not exclusively among men who have sex with men. At least 145 women have been confirmed to have or have had monkeypox, with 45 of those cases being under 18.

With vaccines in short supply and in the absence of an effective treatment, Etienne urged countries to intensify efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

She implored member states to use targeted and honest messages to deliver effective communication campaigns.

It remains unclear when TT will receive its first allocation of vaccine doses.