The Public Health Department in Statia is increasing surveillance for signs of monkeypox in light of the global spread of the virus, including 155 cases in the United States and 167 in the Netherlands as of the end of the day on Wednesday, 22 June.
There are no reported cases of the virus in Statia or the Caribbean, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports one case in Venezuela.
As of 22 June, there were 3308 cases reported in 42 countries - mostly in Europe – where monkeypox is not normally reported, although the CDC has said it expects to see more cases in the US in the coming days.
And with travel returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, health officials in St. Eustatius stress the need to raise awareness among both frontline health workers and the general public.
“Because of the many cases of monkeypox in the different countries, it is of great importance to bring awareness of the infectious disease to the general public of St. Eustatius,” said Shanna Mercera-Gibbs of the Public Health Prevention Clinic.
Monkeypox is not a new virus - the first case was identified in 1970 – and is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox. It is transmitted from animals to humans, and usually does not spread easily between people. The disease spreads through close contact and is less clinically severe and infectious than smallpox.
Traditionally, people with monkeypox have developed a fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches and muscle aches, followed by a rash that starts on their face or in their mouth then spreads to other parts of their body — particularly the hands and feet.
However, the World Health Organization has said that it has also identified a unique pattern of symptoms among recent cases outside of Africa, including rashes limited to certain areas of the body like the genitals or mouth, meaning the virus is behaving unusually from the way it used to in the past.
“While the risk to the public is low, the Public Health Prevention Clinic urges everyone, including people who have travelled to affected countries, to be vigilant. If you think you have been infected, please isolate yourself and contact the Public Health Department immediately,” advised Mercera-Gibbs. “We will continue to liaise with the rest of the Caribbean Netherlands, monitor its progress and update you as necessary.”
Monkeypox is a reportable infectious disease category A, which means it’s considered to be of great public health importance, and the St. Eustatius Health Care Foundation is obligated to inform the Public Health Department of any cases immediately.