The Ministry of Health and Social Development is strengthening its surveillance in response to the increasing detection of Monkeypox cases in the region.

This was confirmed in a government commissioned media release on Friday, which said the decision was due to the high risk of disease introduction, which is linked to increased travel, following the territory’s return to pre-pandemic protocols.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Georges in a statement said despite there being no confirmed or suspected cases of Monkeypox in the British Virgin Islands, it is critical that the territory raises its awareness and enters into a state of heightened vigilance and readiness so that it can respond quickly to reduce human-to-human transmission.

He said, “The current mode of transmission is predominantly through close human-to-human contact. Direct contact with infectious skin lesions, blood or body fluids and respiratory droplets (e.g., coughs and sneezes) and handling of contaminated clothing, linens or bedding of those used by an infected or sick person can also serve as sources of infection.”

Monkeypox, according to the Acting Chief Medical Officer, is a viral disease which primarily occurs in countries of Central and West Africa. Its symptoms are similar, but less severe than Smallpox.

If infected, it can take between 5-21 days before symptoms appear. First symptoms are typically flu-like (fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches, exhaustion), with swelling of the lymph nodes. This then progresses to a widespread rash on the face and body (this can include the genitals). The red bumps eventually turn to pus-filled blisters that crust over.

“Monkeypox disease is usually mild and rarely fatal. Most people recover in a few weeks without treatment,” Dr Georges said.

How to minimize risk of contracting Monkeypox

The Ministry also issued a few tips to minimize the risk associated with contracting Monkeypox.

These include:

  • practicing good hand hygiene (e.g., washing hands often with soap or water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser)
  • avoiding contact with infected or sick persons
  • wearing a face mask if you are in close contact with someone with symptoms
  • practice safe sex

The Acting CMO further stated that persons exhibiting symptoms of Monkeypox should call ahead before visiting their medical practitioner for examination and advice, especially if there is recent history of travel or contact with a person who recently travelled.

On Wednesday, Jamaica reported its first case of Monkeypox.