Monkeypox: ‘We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in Brazil,’ says infectious disease specialist | Health

There are around a thousand confirmed cases in Brazil, including children, teenagers and even a pregnant woman, but experts say the federal government’s response to the advance of ‘monkeypox’, called monkeypox in the country , falls short of what is needed, as if the country had learned nothing from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Ministry of Health put the case into perspective by saying that it is a disease that affects Europe more. But in fact, we only see the tip of the iceberg in brazil, because there is still no really effective campaign to guide people about the injuries that need to take them to the health center. There is also no medical training for health workers to diagnose injuries,” Alexandre Naime Barbosa, a researcher at Unesp and vice-president of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, told RFI.

Although the disease results in mild symptoms in most cases, there may be a greater risk for young children and the elderly, and there is certainly a danger for patients with compromised immunity, as was the case with man who died of the disease in Brazil Last week. He was HIV positive and was battling lymphoma.

“Currently, men who have sex with men are the clearest exposure category for ‘monkeypox’, but the virus has no preference, it’s democratic. There are at least five cases in children already reported in Brazil, a pregnant woman, several cases in women as well. The problem is when the disease finds immunocompromised individuals. Then it can be serious,” Barbosa said.

The Ministry of Health confirms the first death from monkeypox in Brazil – Photo: JN

Another specialist heard by RFI, public health specialist Jonas Brant, professor in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Brasília (UnB), said that many governments have struggled to organize the healthcare system to stop the spread of the virus.

“It got out of control. The number of cases is increasing very rapidly. The first measure in this case is that the health posts are prepared for the diagnosis because the patient with ‘monkeypox’ in general does not go to the emergency room, because it is not so serious, but to the health post because of the injuries “, he says.

Brant explains that it is from the post, in primary care in the public network, that the orientation for the isolation of suspected cases comes, at the same time as the search for other people who have had contact with the possible infected person. “It’s to break the chain of contagion. This monitoring has been a basic tool for centuries and we are not able to maintain it,” he points out.

He believes that the situation in Brazil is worsening due to the climate of intense politicization and that this serious communication vacuum from the health authorities is due to the fact that monkeypox initially affected more gay men. “It’s a taboo subject, a problematic subject for the current government, even more so in an election year.”

But he also points out that “in several parts of the world there are already reports, for example, of contagion in children and this shows that there will be changes in this target group over time”, said l UnB epidemiologist.

Brazil will receive 20,000 doses of vaccine in September

In a difficult account to close in the short term, the Ministry of Health indicates that the vaccination will focus on health professionals and on people who have had direct contact with unvaccinated infected people. However, the first shipment will only bring 20,000 doses to the country in September, thanks to an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), because the Danish company that produces the vaccine does not have an office in Brazil. In October, another thirty thousand doses should arrive.

“Countries like Canada have already started vaccinating people. And, unfortunately, Brazil continues to sin at this stage of vaccination, as does the delay in acquiring doses in the coronavirus pandemic,” compared infectious disease specialist Alexandre Barbosa.

There are still many questions that research has yet to answer. One is the degree of protection that people who were vaccinated against smallpox more than 40 years ago now have against monkeypox. Experts also wonder if the vaccine will be enough to protect the elderly. Another question is whether, in addition to known forms of contagion – such as contact with wounds, salivary secretions or objects used by the patient – it is also possible to catch the disease through sexual intercourse.

Okay, say the experts, do Brazil must make efforts to guarantee the population access to medicines and vaccinations. “Drugs and vaccines have been developed for smallpox and today only the big powers have this technology. So there is a work of geopolitics and diplomacy there so that all countries can have access to this technology, ”explains the public health specialist at UnB.

“The vaccine, in the case of ‘monkeypox’, has a great advantage, it can be applied after exposure. So I can vaccinate people after they have had contact with an infected person, and that helps block transmission,” concludes Jonas Brant.

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