Bajans Urged to Remain Cautious as the Island Faces New COVID-19 Variants and Monkeypox Virus

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) is urging people here to continue exercising greater care as the island faces the threat of infections from the more transmissible COVID-19 BA4 and BA5 variants.

mpBAA training session on coronavirus testing takes place at the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory in Barbados in 2020. (Photo courtesy of PAHO Barbados/Brenda Lashley)“These successful public health strategies, which are familiar to use, should be continued at this time as we simultaneously face this new illness and the threat of the more transmissible and immunity-evading COVID-19 Omicron variants, BA4 and BA5,” the BAMP said in a statement.

BAMP public relations officer, Dr Stephanie Date said that in order to reduce the risk of the transmission of the Monkeypox virus, there should be an immediate identification and isolation of suspected cases, proper hand sanitization, respiratory hygiene, physical distancing and proper wearing of masks.

“Therefore, it is important that we do not let our guard down and continue to be vigilant at this time. We advise the public to immediately report any suspected symptoms of Monkeypox, or any contact with an individual showing signs or symptoms of this illness.”

Barbados health authorities last Saturday confirmed the first case of the Monkeypox virus with officials indicating that the island is fully prepared to handle any cases of the virus that has already been detected in two other CARICOM countries, namely Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Health and Wellness Minister, Ian Gooding Edghill in a statement said that the case here is of a Barbadian national in his 30s”who attended the Winston Scott Polyclinic with symptoms of a progressive rash, body pains and fever.

“The patient remains in isolation and is under the direct care and medical supervision of our Medical Officer of Health. In the interest of patient confidentiality, no personal details will be disclosed.”

Edghill said he remains “confident” that the speedy announcement of this case will, as has occurred with the island’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, “get from the Barbadian public the same level of cooperation in our ongoing management of the Monkeypox health issue.

BAMP also suggested that people may make a report by calling the polyclinic nearest them, or a medical practitioner who would alert the public health authorities responsible for initiating appropriate contact tracing and isolation protocols.

It said Monkeypox can be spread from person to person via respiratory droplets such as from coughing or sneezing or close contact, including face-to-face, skin-to-skin, or sexual contact.

Dr. Date said that infectious individuals may also spread the virus by contaminating surfaces and objects including bedding and clothing when they have a rash.

“While most cases are mild, Monkeypox can still cause discomfort and sickness. In rare cases, children, pregnant women, persons who have uncontrolled chronic diseases or compromised immune systems, may develop more severe complications from the disease. Exposure to someone infected with Monkeypox will not lead to sickness immediately, but illness may develop within the incubation period of five to 21 days,” BAMP added.

Symptoms of Monkeypox also include high fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes (glands), which are accompanied by a characteristic rash that is sometimes pruritic (itchy).

“The Monkeypox rash often appears first on the face and can also be found in areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, the eyes, mouth or genital regions. The rash may appear as flat lesions, which eventually become fluid-filled or pus-filled blisters. Persons may experience these symptoms for up to four weeks, and can be considered infectious until all lesions have crusted and scabs have flaked off to reveal new layers of skin,” BAMP added.