Despite monkeypox being a minor illness, the possible economic impact, especially at this time, when the novel coronavirus pandemic is in its recovery phase, maybe significant, according to Dr. Kevin Harvey, head of UTech’s School of Public Health and Health Technology. “Occurrence of any outbreak is exceptionally costly to the country. And, as you can imagine, if we hear that monkeys are suffering from monkeypox in Jamaica, it would have a significant impact on tourism and the local population, who are still recovering from COVID.” He told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.

However, the renowned public health and infectious disease expert maintained that monkeypox is less transmissible than COVID-19, thus allowing for easier management. “It’s also milder, and in terms of individuals, it would have a lesser impact, but it will be extremely tough since these types of occurrences’ consequences will be so widespread,” he continued. Dr. Harvey said that the country could benefit from the COVID-19 experience in terms of protection and confinement because it has provided a lot of useful information and insight.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been confirmed cases of the illness in 12 countries beyond Central and West Africa, where the uncommon viral infection is endemic. At the same time, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control announced on Wednesday that all 219 worldwide infections have been identified in EU member states.

Individuals who develop monkeypox typically recover without medical intervention, although one in ten cases can turn out to be fatal, depending on the virus strain. The disease is most common in men who have sex with men, in people with weaker immune systems, and during infancy. Majority of cases have been attributed to sexual transmission among males who have had gay sex, although no links between travel to endemic areas and illness have been established so far.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that human-to-human transmission is uncommon, and instances are frequently found near to endemic regions with animals who can spread the virus. It spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, skin rashes or sores in the mouth or throat, as well as respiratory droplets and contaminated items.

But one medical expert expressed uncertainty that the panic and anxiety being fuelled by the media might not be warranted, given that the virus has been endemic to Africa for decades. “There have been cases in Africa for a long time. There was just one confirmed case in the US yesterday, along with around four probable ones,” he stated to the Observer. He noted the 2003 viral outbreak in the United States Midwest, wherein the virus was supposedly transmitted from infected animals. “We had no idea about it in 2003. Now we have one case in the US and everyone is panicking, so I’m not really sure what the panic and fear-mongering are about,” he said.

Dr. David Kirsh, associate professor of preventive medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, said that although the public should be concerned, given the potential danger of monkeypox, it is relevant to consider it in light of other vulnerabilities. In particular, he pointed out that when this illness was confined to its native range and did not appear to trigger panic on a global scale. 

Dr Morais Guy, the opposition’s health spokesman, this week urged the health ministry to act quickly and begin planning in the health sector. He told The Observer on Thursday that while some may believe a “mountain is being constructed out of a molehill,” there is cause for worry because additional viral illness might have an adverse impact on both public health and the tourism industry. 

“Some circumstances can be fatal. If it infected a significant percentage of our population, like COVID did, our health systems would be overwhelmed, just as they were with COVID. Our primary markets are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and those four regions are where we’ve seen it happening. He continued by stating, “As a result of the fact that the incubation period is approximately 14 days, anybody entering the country may be carrying it and only starting to display symptoms while they are here and distributing it to others.”

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