symptoms of Francisco started after return home to Mexico City from California at the end of June. It started with two pimples on the buttocksbut a week later he had lesions all over his body, his mouth so full of sores that he could barely speak or drink water.
“The pain was inexplicable, catastrophic,” said Francisco, 44, who asked Reuters to hide his real name.
Francis is one of the at least 59 people infected with monkeypox or monkeypox that have been confirmed in Mexico since May, a number that experts believe could be higher.
In Latin America, Mexico is positioned behind Brazil and Peru in number of confirmed cases of the infectious disease, which has spread mainly among gay and bisexual men like Francisco.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox as a global health emergency on July 23, which caused greater attention from regional authorities, however, some mdoctors and activists in the two largest countries in Latin America they told Reuters that response has been too lukewarm.
“We are not seeing that the necessary measures are taken, nor that monkeypox is given the necessary importance,” said Dr. Sergio Montalvo, a sexual health specialist in Mexico City.
Doctors like Montalvo fear that authorities have not learned the lesson of the Covid-19 pandemicwhich has put health systems in check and has left governments without funds.
The situation is similar in Brazilwhere the 970 registered cases represent more than two-thirds of the region’s total, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The Brazilian Ministry of Health announced a monkeypox emergency plan on July 28, more than a month after its first case and a day before reporting the first smallpox death outside of Africa in the current outbreak.
“We were already receiving news about the outbreak in Europe and the United States, but the government did nothing,” he said. Vinicius Borgesan infectious disease specialist in Sao Paulo, adding that the pain caused by monkeypox symptoms has had “serious effects” on the physical and mental health of his patients.
The Mexican and Brazilian health ministries did not respond to multiple requests by Reuters for an interview.
Following the WHO statement, the Mexican Ministry of Health published its first advice related to monkeypox since the country confirmed the first case in May.
“In these two months we could have already made important progress,” he said. Ricardo BaruchLGBT+ health researcher who helped organize a protest in Mexico City last week to demand that the Government make more prevention efforts, especially in the group of men who have sex with men (MSM).
A study published in New England Journal of Medicine found that the 98% of infections in the current outbreak outside of Africa are among gay and bisexual men.
Mexican health authorities have avoided emphasizing the risks for this group.
“They don’t want to create stigma, but if they don’t talk about it, the measures are not going to be focused on us,” Baruch said.
Brazilian microbiologist Natalia Pasternak expressed her concern at the lack of response from Brazil.
“There has been no effort by the federal government to raise awareness in the population about how monkeypox can be contracted, how it is transmitted from person to person, how skin lesions are recognized and how it can be transmitted from contact. skin-to-skin or sexual,” Pasternak said.
On July 25, the Brazilian Minister of Health, Marcelo Queirogasaid the Government had “done its homework” to prepare to monkeypox, noting four laboratories that test for this disease.
However, “it will take some time to develop testing capacity in Brazil,” said Pasternak, a member of the Sao Paulo state monkeypox advisory board. “We really don’t see the intention of the Ministry of Health to do this planning,” he added.
In a possible sign of progress, PAHO said on July 27 that ten countries in the region had expressed interest in acquiring a vaccine.
Andrea Vicari, head of PAHO’s Infectious Threat Management Unit, said that it was not too late to stop the spread of monkeypox in America.
“Even if we don’t have vaccines, we have other control measures. If we implement them well, we can achieve our goals of reducing transmission.”