Letters & Opinion

The Open School: On Monkeypox

By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

WELCOME students to the Open School for the third and final term. I want to take the opportunity to apologize on the abrupt closure of school for the last two weeks. That was due, in part, to the passing of my sister in Quebec, Canada. I also wish to welcome students to another lesson in the Open School on Monkeypox. The school is open to parents, guardians, teachers, students and members of the public. This is the eleventh in a series of lessons which is done in the Open school every two weeks. It is my hope that students will acquire knowledge and a better understanding of Monkeypox.

At the time that I grew up in George Charles Boulevard, Marchand, many of the children at that time would have heard of Smallpox and Chickenpox. In fact, many of us were struck by the viral disease chicken pox. Those who got it experienced many black spots on our skin that scratched quite a bit.

As I write, we are hearing about Monkey pox. Although many of us would be hearing about this viral disease for the first time, the disease was discovered in Africa in 1958.

But what exactly is Monkeypox and what do we need to know about the viral disease.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that was first detected in monkeys in Africa in 1958. It resembles smallpox in terms of the skin lesions or pox that could be seen on the  skin of humans. By skin lesions I mean a part of the skin that has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it. You can be born with them (Primary lesions) or you can acquire those (Secondary lesions).

There is now an outbreak of Monkeypox viral disease. And there has been several outbreaks of Monkeypox since 1970. Although most have occurred in Africa, there was an outbreak in the United States of America in 2003. And, like COVID-19, it could very easily come to the Caribbean, and, indeed, St. Lucia.

Now smallpox was eradicated from the human population in 1979 by the use of vaccines. But monkeypox is now the stubborn viral diseases as its sister COVID-19 and we do not know how soon those viral diseases would be eradicated from the human population.

Now how is Monkeypox transmitted? Transmission of Monkeypox is usually by direct contact with infected rodents and monkeys.

Some rodents are rats, Agouti, beavers, squirrels, porcupines, House mice, guinea pigs, just to name a few. For us in St. Lucia, the more common ones are rats and house mice that could be seen around us regularly. The Environmental Division of the Ministry of Health has introduced many projects with the intension of eradicating rats and mice. However, they have not been successful. They are one of the most brazen sets of animals on earth. They will take food from your hands if you are not alert. They can be seen around snack shops all around the city.

Transmission to humans could also be through the broken skin due to bites, scratches or other trauma. The virus could also be transmitted from human to human by infected respiratory droplets. That is tiny drops of spittle which comes from the mouth. Like COVID-19, that’s why it is so important to wear masks. Also droplets could come from the skin as well. And all the reason why we have been asked to stay 6 and 3 feet apart to prevent physical contact, like COVID-19.

Now what are the symptoms of the Monkeypox viral disease? The following are some of the symptoms which could very easily be detected: fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, sweating, fatigue, exhaustion. Some people may also develop a cough, nausea and shortness of breath.

About two to four days after a fever develops a rash most often develops on the face and chest. But other body areas may eventually be affected.

Now what is the incubation period of Monkeypox? Incubation is the period be-tween contact with the virus and the showing up of symptoms. And that period is 14 days. Does that speak to COVID-19?

Indeed, how do health care professional diagnose Monkeypox? Firstly, through history and physical examination. The doctor or health consultant would try to determine the rodent population in your area which may help to identify the source of the infection. Your health provider may look for lesions on your skin and find ways of preventing the spread of the infection.

Now what is the treatment for Monkeypox? The Centre for disease control in the United States of America  recommends the following:

A smallpox vaccination should be administered within two weeks of exposure to monkeypox.

The Federal Drug Administration of the United States of America approved and recommends the ‘Jynneos’ vaccine for immunization of adults that are at high risk. The Jynneos is a replication-deficient vaccinia` virus vaccine which is licenced in the United States of America.

But is it possible to prevent Monkeypox with a vaccine?

Monkeypox can be prevented by avoiding eating or touching animals know to be affected with the virus in the wild. Person to person transfer has been documented. Persons or patients who have the disease should physically isolate themselves until all the pox lesions have been healed. And people who are caring for these patients should use barriers, which are gloves, gowns and facemasks.

Now because Smallpox and Monkeypox are so closely related, it has been suggested that people vaccinated against Smallpox have about an 85% chance of being protected from Monkeypox.

Now two questions for you:

(1) Explain in your own words explain what monkeypox is.

(2) Give five ways in which one can avoid getting monkeypox.

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