Health Minister Moses ‘Musa’ Jn. Baptiste is clearing the air on Saint Lucia’s monkeypox situation after the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs reported six suspected cases on Thursday.
The information emerged two days after carnival ended causing widespread speculation about its timing.
The question asked by many Saint Lucians was whether the ministry had this information before carnival. Further, was a deliberate decision taken by the ministry not to release the information before carnival? And if so be the case, why hold back the information? After all, if people wished to indulge in carnival, why not give them the information to allow them to make informed (and in some cases unwise) decisions?
Jn. Baptiste, when questioned by THE VOICE yesterday indicated that there was no malice involved.
“I don’t think it (information) coincides with carnival. I think it coincides with the process which the medical practitioners take to reach the stage of saying we have suspected cases officially; I think that’s what it is. It’s not a matter of carnival or anything like that because they don’t take carnival and these things into consideration when they have to make statements and so on. If they have to do it in the middle of a jump up session, they’ll do it; carnival was not a consideration at all as far as I am aware,” Jn. Baptiste stated.
According to the minister, the ministry has been monitoring the situation for a while now.
“Since the time of the airhostess situation we’ve been monitoring (the monkeypox situation globally) and these (suspected) cases just before carnival and into the carnival season. Investigations were being carried out, people were being interviewed, contact tracing (was being done) and so on (and) a couple of them were isolated already.”
The ministry, yesterday, was able to confirm the status of the cases under observation stating that it “received the test results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of which all of the suspected cases test results returned negative for the monkeypox virus. As of Friday July 22, 2022 there is no confirmed case of monkeypox in Saint Lucia.”
“The reason we say ‘suspected’ (is) because there may be symptoms that look like monkeypox, but we sent the samples to CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) for confirmation or to cancel out the possibility of monkeypox. As long as they are suspected (cases) we isolate them right away even if we are not sure that it’s monkeypox and then we send the samples to CARPHA for verification,” Jn. Baptiste stated.
“It is important for us to let the public know (when there are) suspected cases; there’s a process that the medical officials go through. A few weeks ago, we had a suspected case. We had the person isolated and when the results came back it (showed) that the person was not positive for monkeypox; that’s why we say suspected,” he added.
Monkeypox is a viral disease caused by the monkeypox virus which is usually transmitted from animal to human in some African countries but can also be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with skin lesions or indirect contact with contaminated objects with lesion materials.
The virus is also transmitted through respiratory droplets; human to human transmission is responsible for the majority of cases in the 2022 monkeypox outbreak.