The V.I. Health Department is joining in coordinated response efforts to track local monkeypox cases now that the disease has been declared a global emergency. According to a DOH release, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 16,836 cases were reported worldwide as of July 22 – the majority of which, they said, are in countries that have historically not recorded any.
The count includes 2,891 cases on the mainland U.S. and nine in Puerto Rico, according to the release.
Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said that locally, the DOH is working with its federal and local partners to respond to any local cases for treatment and outbreak prevention.
“The department will send diagnostic samples to reference laboratories and confer with CDC Monkeypox Division for access to medical countermeasure treatment and vaccine prevention,” Encarnacion said. Meanwhile, Health’s Immunization Division has secured 100 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for outbreak prevention within the territory.
JYNNEOS is a replication-deficient smallpox vaccine that has been shown to be effective in monkeypox prevention and treatment.
Monkeypox is a rare virus that is like smallpox but is milder and rarely fatal. Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a rash with pimples or blisters. The virus is spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex. The virus can also be spread during pregnancy through the placenta.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact a healthcare provider immediately. The following procedure has been established:
- Personal protective equipment should be used as universal precautions in all health care settings for all suspected cases;
- All suspected cases should be reported immediately to the DOH Epidemiology Divisionthrough Epi-1 Infectious Diseases Notification form;
- Instructions will be provided for proper specimen collection for DOH submission to the CDC or validated PR laboratory for rapid testing;
- DOH will activate a CDC consultation for medical treatment. Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), although not specifically for monkeypox virus, may be recommended for severe infections. The CDC will distribute as needed to the territory on demand due to limited supply;
- The Epidemiology Division will immediately commence contact tracing; and
- Those identified as a high-risk exposure will be recommended for vaccination with JYNNEOS. The vaccine will be dispensed from the DOH Public Health Laboratory for injection at a DOH clinic. This vaccination is considered necessary in preventing occupational or community spread.
Health will continue to provide education to local providers and keep the public informed of any confirmed cases, Sunday’s press release stated.