IN recent years, humanity has been afflicted by several epidemics, some short-lived while others, though they had run their course, continue in a milder form. The most recent and worst is the COVID-19 which killed several millions of people, sickened many millions more and damaged and depressed the economies of all countries. COVID-19 was the first pandemic/epidemic in History, which evoked a unified international response and cooperation in confronting it. The value of such international cooperation was recognised by all countries and international organisations and has now been accepted as a norm. Though COVID-19 is fading away and is resolving itself, it still survives and citizens should not drop their guard.
As COVID-19 is fading away, another epidemic, Monkeypox, has emerged. Monkeypox is not a new disease and is endemic to certain parts of the African continent. Science is aware of this virus. Now, however, it has suddenly appeared worldwide and there is fear that it will grow into epidemic proportions. Gaining from the COVID-19 experience, international contact and cooperation have immediately started.
Primates or monkeys generally transmit the virus, and family members and health workers who may have close contact with an infected person are at risk of being infected.
The medical description of the symptoms of Monkeypox is: “acute skin rash with maculopapular (flat based lesions) to vesicles (fluid-filled blisters), pustules and subsequent crusting affecting the face, palms of the hand, soles of the feet and the rest of the body. . . this may be accompanied by headache, acute onset of fever, myalgia, back pain, asthenia and lymphadenopathy”. We did not try to elucidate the medical jargon since this would have involved a great deal more time and space, but all readers would have had a fairly clear idea of it from the definition as it stands.
The infection takes about three days to overtake the body fully and would resolve itself in two to three weeks. Monkeypox is not as deadly a disease as COVID-19, but it is a very painful and uncomfortable ailment which could leave lifelong scars on the skin.
Though specific vaccines have not been developed for Monkeypox, smallpox and chickenpox vaccines, have proven at least 80 percent effective and are being used by several countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been urging the exchange of information among countries and assisting each other with their vaccine stocks. Ms Sylvie Briand, the WHO Director for Global Infections Hazard Preparedness, remarked: “We think the key priority currently is trying to contain this transmission in non-endemic countries. Needed measures include the early detection and isolation of cases and contact tracing”. The WHO is advising against mass vaccination but is recommending targeted vaccination on those who were in contact with infected persons such as family
members and health workers. Infected persons should be isolated.
The Guyana Health Services, under the leadership of Dr Frank Anthony, immediately took action to contain Monkeypox. A circular was issued to all medical practitioners instructing them to be on the lookout for patients who may show symptoms of the disease and to report these. Appropriate treatment should be administered, including instructions about the necessity for isolation. The Ministry of Health has also acquired a supply of vaccines adequate for any emergency. Guyanese should not be unduly alarmed about this Monkeypox epidemic since early action has been taken on it, and it is under control.