Act on monkeypox virus

The government needs to be proactive in educating the public on how to remain observant about the ongoing global outbreak of monkeypox.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of the virus have roughly trebled—from 257 a week ago to 780 confirmed cases—in less than a week in about 27 countries where it is not yet endemic.

Most of these new cases are in Europe and North America, and small numbers are in Mexico, Argentina, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

In its latest update, the WHO said some countries were reporting new cases beyond known contacts of previously confirmed ones, which, it said, suggested chains of transmission were being “missed through undetected circulation of the virus”.

Already, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorised monkeypox at alert level 2, calling on people to practise enhanced precautions.

Monkeypox primarily occurs in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and is related to smallpox, a deadly disease eradicated in 1980; but it’s much less severe.

Most cases of the virus clear up on their own in a few weeks. Symptoms include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, aching muscles and a rash that goes through different stages.

While the current risk to human health for the general public “remains low”, the public health risk could “become high” if the virus becomes widespread in countries where it’s not normally found, said the WHO.

No deaths have been reported as a result of the current outbreak. Health experts have called for vigilance amid reports that samples of suspected cases in Kenya have been flown to Senegal for further investigation.

Given the UN’s warning that with the ongoing spread “it is highly likely that other countries will identify cases and there will be further spread of the virus”, it is crucial for the government to actively put out public health advice on what measures the country is taking to protect Kenyans from the disease and what the public ought to do to avoid getting infected.