It is no longer news that a disease, MonkeyPox, is in Nigeria. Fortunately, no death has been recorded. The National Centre For Disease Control, Abuja, has recorded about thirty one(31) suspected cases in seven states across Nigeria. The states include, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers. Samples have been collected from each of the thirty one suspected cases and results are been awaited. Adverts are been run to help spread awareness and protective measures against the disease. The Federal Ministry of Health is also working with the government of various states, both affected and unaffected, to bring it under to control and prevent it from getting worse. An Emergency Operation Centre(EOP) has been instituted to help control the spread of the disease.
MonkeyPox was first identified in a laboratory monkey kept for research in 1958. In humans, it was first identified in a nine year old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire), in 1970, in a region where, in 1968, another orthopoxvirus, smallpox, has been eliminated. The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced a minor outbreak between 1996-1997 and recently this year. Between January to April of this year, 2017, four(4) deaths were recorded in 70 cases. Most cases, before the new millennium, have been in the Congo Basin and Western Africa, until the spring of 2003 where the case was confirmed in the Midwest of the United States of America, the first time the case was identified outside Africa.
In the midwestern US States of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, the disease was traced to prairie dogs(some herbivorous burrowing rodents found in North America) infected by some Gambian rats imported by a Texas exotic animal distributor from Accra, Ghana, in April of that year. Fortunately, no death was recorded in the seventy one(71) cases reported. Between 1970 and 1986, about four hundred(400) cases have already been identified and all were in Africa. Sudan reported cases of MonkeyPox in 2005, in Unity State of the country but no death was recorded. Last October, about twenty-six(26) cases were recorded in the Central African Republic(CAR) with two deaths recorded. On 4th of October, when that first case was reported in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, so many different information, both wrong and true, about what it really is have been circulated. I hope no one baths with salt this time like some did in the year 2014 when we had the Ebola outbreak.
Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis (that is, a virus transmitted to humans from animals) that carries the monkey pox virus(a double stranded DNA zoonitic virus) and a species of the genus, Orthopoxvirus, in the family, Poxviridae. It is called Monkeypox because the first case was identified in monkeys in Denmark in 1958. The difference between monkeypox and smallpox is that in monkey pox, a milder rash and a low death rate is observed. It belongs to the same family as smallpox, chickenpox and camelpox. It can be found in animals like monkeys, prairie dogs, Gambian rats, rabbits and chimpanzees. The virus causes an illness in humans which can be fatal if not managed properly as we have seen in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
Symptoms of MonkeyPox
Monkeypox is not as deadly as the Ebola Virus we had some time in 2014. The symptoms range from six(6) to sixteen(16) days but can range from five(5) to twenty-one(21) days. The symptoms of the disease operate in two stages. First, their is fever, back pain, headache, swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes also known as lymphadenopathy, muscle pain also known as myalgia and loss of energy or body weakness. The patient scratches the genitalia, scratches his or her eyelid, and the eyeballs. The rash is often a result of the enlargement of the lymph nodes. This stage is known as the incubation period.
Then their is the second stage or the skin eruption period which occurs between 1-3 days after the first stage, or incubation period has been satisfied. At this stage, the rash, swelling, headache, backache and other primary symptoms must have appeared. Ninety-five percent, 95%, of the face is affected by this rash similar to what you will find in smallpox. In the hands, palms and soles of the feet about 75% is affected. The only difference between the characteristics of monkeypox and those of smallpox is the swelling of the lymph nodes in monkeypox which is absent in smallpox. It is more severe in children and younger people. About -1 to 10% of those infected die from the disease.
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In summary, first the person gets fever, then rash develops on the face and spreads on the body, the person feels tired, experience backache and then lesions(injuries, wounds) from a few to thousands begin to appear and if not handled well may lead to death.
What Causes MonkeyPox/How Is It Transmitted?
MonkeyPox can occur from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, cutaneous or mucous membrane of infected persons and animals. Contacts with respiratory secretions like cough or sneeze of infected persons or animals can lead to the spread of the virus. Animal-to-human transmission could occur through direct eating of infected animals, scratches or bites from infected animals, contact with body fluids of infected animals. Eating poorly cooked meat of infected animals could lead to the infection. Mother-child transmission could result from the passage of food to a pregnant woman to the fetus(child in the womb) through the placenta. Sharing a bed, a room or utensils with infected persons increases the chances of getting infected.
For now, their are NO specific treatments or vaccines for Monkeypox infection but the vaccine for smallpox cidofovir, ST-246, and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) have been proven to be 85% effective in the prevention of monkeypox in the past. Though the vaccine is no longer available due to the eradication of smallpox.
Even though their is no known vaccine that can cure it now, their are measures that could be taken prevent the infection:
- Avoid close contacts with infected persons or animals.
- It is advised that Nigerians who love bush meat make sure any meat they are eating is thoroughly cooked to avoid stories that touch.
- Hand washing with soap and water or alcohol based sanitizer is encouraged.
- Infected persons or animals or materials suspected to have been infected must be quarantined for proper diagnosis and care.
- Surveillance measures to rapidly identify new cases is very important.
- Hand gloves and other protective equipments like face masks should be used when attending to patients.
- A sound awareness program where people are educated on the dangers of the infection and how to survive it.
Please no one should bath with salt like some of us did the last time we experienced the Ebola outbreak. It kills the person faster rather than protect them. We can go back to that era of not shaking hands, to minimise the spread, until the disease is contained. Parents, watch your kids and educate them on the disease and how to protect themselves against it. Visit their schools if possible. Hopefully, like we defeated the Ebola virus when it came, we will defeat this one too.