Steering committee established to monitor Monkeypox

persons under 40 years more vulnerable – Health Minister

Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony announced that his ministry has established a steering committee as part of efforts to prepare for the monkeypox virus reaching here.

Research has shown that persons younger than 40 years old are more likely to contract the virus because this age cohort has never been immunised with the smallpox vaccine.

Smallpox vaccine – administration of antigenic material (vaccine) to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen

Government said the vaccine used for small pox has shown promising results, and will be used to immunise persons against monkeypox.

“In most of the world, smallpox is being eliminated, so the last set of vaccines that probably have been given was around the 1980s. So, persons now who are younger than 40, they don’t have any immunity against smallpox and obviously monkeypox. So, with the circulation of this, with cases going around this younger population can be vulnerable, and that’s what we’re seeing globally,” Dr. Anthony said during Friday’s COVID-19 update.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony

He said monkeypox is becoming an emerging problem as the virus continues to spread. Cases have been recorded in more than 68 countries worldwide.

We have been monitoring what is happening globally, and we have established a technical committee within the ministry to monitor, and to issue guidance to other clinicians and public health practitioners as it relates to monkeypox,” he said.

Minister Anthony explained that the committee sought guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to establish local guidelines.

Testing for Monkeypox virus

It is also responsible for creating a document which defines what monkeypox is, what are the clinical signs and symptoms, and how to conduct testing and diagnose the disease.

“That document has been finalised, and is being circulated to healthcare workers across the country so that they can use that as reference or guidance material,” he said.

The committee has also planned a number of workshops to meet with persons at high risk of contracting the disease. The workshops will begin Monday and will be taken to all regions countrywide.

In terms of testing for the monkeypox virus, Minister Anthony said, “we have also identified personnel within the public health system to train them in how to do the test for monkeypox, and we have trained persons how to collect samples…and we’ll make sure we have capacity in every region of Guyana.” A technical incident team was also established to ascertain whether someone is infected with monkeypox. The team consists of infectious diseases specialists and dermatologists, along with public health and laboratory officials.

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