How Brazil is Preparing for the Arrival of Monkeypox

The country’s health authorities recommend isolation and have created a ‘situation room’ to monitor the spread of the virus

Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture has not yet notified the agricultural industry about the risk of monkeypox, according to Agrícola Famosa, the largest exporter of melons to Europe.
May 25, 2022 | 01:35 PM

São Paulo — Brazil, a major exporter of agricultural products and commodities, has started to monitor the spread of monkeypox, and which is becoming of increasing concern worldwide.

The country’s logistics and foreign trade sector is following with some apprehension the evolution of cases outside the country, fearing possible impacts on companies’ procedures and activities, according to Logcomex, a startup that provides big data and automation solutions for the sector.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health created a situation room to monitor the viral disease endemic to Africa, and which has moderate transmission possibilities among humans.

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So far, no suspected cases of the disease have been reported in the South American country.

“The measure aims to develop an action plan for the tracking of suspected cases, and the definition of clinical and laboratory diagnosis for the disease,” the ministry said.

“The surveillance of diseases with the potential to cause a public health emergency is monitored by the Center for Strategic Information in Health Surveillance (CIEVS), which operates permanently, detecting information 24 hours a day,” the ministry said in a statement.

The experience with the Covid-19 pandemic, decreed in March 2020, has served to raise concerns about monkeypox among exporters and importers in Brazil.

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“The Covid-19 pandemic made the logistics and foreign trade sector watch out for countries’ sanitary issues, so monkeypox is initially scary,” Helmuth Hofstatter, CEO of Logcomex, said.

Hofstatter said that the evolution of cases in Europe and the virus’ possible arrival in South America are of concern. “The ideal thing is to follow and understand the evolution of the cases, looking for scientific sources for this,” he said.

So far, Brazil’s agricultural sector has not yet received any notification from the Ministry of Agriculture about any restriction on Brazilian shipments, according to Luiz Roberto Barcelos, CEO of Agrícola Famosa, one of Brazil’s largest fruit exporters, and which is a member company of the Brazilian Association of Producers and Exporters of Fruit and Derivatives (Abrafruta).

“The disease has not yet been detected in Brazil, but for sure it [the appearance of cases] will end up happening . It’s complicated, because we haven’t even come out of the pandemic and we may already be entering into another health crisis,” he said.

The tourism sector, which is in the process of recovering revenues fter more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, is also closely following the monkeypox situation.

“It is still too early to say what will happen or when the situation will be resolved. We have to wait. We can’t be alarmists,” according to Roberto Haro Nedelciu, president of Brazilian tour operator body Braztoa, which groups together more than 50 travel firms in the country.

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Isolation

The country’s National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) denied on Tuesday that it has recommended isolation as a measure for tackling monkeypox, rebutting news about a note issued by the agency the day before.

“Anvisa only reinforced the adoption of measures already in place at airports and onboard aircraft aimed at protecting individuals and groups, not only against Covid-19, but also against other diseases,” the agency said in a statement published Tuesday.

The statement cites the World Health Organization (WHO), which has stated that monkeypox can be transmitted among humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material that is contaminated with the virus.

“The virus can be transmitted from one person to another through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials, such as bedding,” according to the WHO.

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Anvisa says it acts by following the actions of the WHO, and that “as soon as they are justified, sanitary measures will be proposed when appropriate, in addition to the existing rules in force in Brazil”.

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The agency added that “reference authorities such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the UK’s Health Security Agency point out that virus transmission usually occurs through injured skin, even if the injury is not visible, as well as through the respiratory tract or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth).

As a precaution, preventive measures are recommended to avoid transmission of the infection, as well as care in the handling of bedding, towels, and sheets used by an infected person. Hand hygiene in both cases is recommended, according to Anvisa.