The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment (MOHWE) wishes to advise the general public that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

As such, in keeping with WHO’s recommendations, the MOHWE has increased its monkeypox surveillance at our ports of entry and at health care facilities.

We are also ensuring that we have the capacity to test for the monkeypox virus at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus which is similar to the smallpox virus. Persons typically experience a fever, a rash, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek attention from their health care provider. Physicians are reminded to report any suspected cases monkeypox to the MOHWE’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

Monkeypox is spread from person to person by direct contact with the rash, bodily fluids (fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions), and scabs. Clothing, sheets, towels and other objects can also be sources of infection.

The virus is also transmitted from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. Respiratory secretions can also be a source of infection.

There has been no laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox in Antigua and Barbuda since samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) have all been negative.

Samples will be processed locally at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center in a few weeks. There is no specific treatment for monkeypox.

However, the public is advised that social and physical distancing, frequent handwashing and wearing facemasks may prevent infection.

Persons are therefore strongly advised to practice these public health and social measures during this carnival season to avoid becoming infected with the monkeypox virus.