The sudden emergence of monkeypox in several European and North American countries has raised questions about how the virus spreads. Since May 13, the virus, which primarily occurs in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa, has been detected in more than 12 Western countries with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying cases reported have no established travel links to an endemic area. The UN health agency has since, once again, issued an alert over the increasing cases, adding that its “full extent and impact... remains unclear.”
In human beings, monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person or animal or with material contaminated with the virus. Sores in the mouth can be infectious.
According to the WHO, cases in the current outbreak have mainly but not exclusively been identified among men who have sex with men, which has not been the case previously. Although the close contact that occurs during sexual activity can be blamed for the spread, experts have warned against declaring it a sexually transmitted disease or attributing its spread to certain communities.
Based on available information, more than 100 cases of the virus, which causes a rash and a fever, have been confirmed in Europe, the Americas and Australia. The virus may just have taken advantage of an ideal situation where health systems have been weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between December 15 and May 1, the disease has been reported in four African countries—Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria—where it is endemic. The last case was recorded in DRC on May 1. No African country has reported a case since then.
As the WHO prepares to hold a second global meeting on monkeypox next week to more thoroughly study the risks and treatments available to fight the virus, it would be prudent for African nations, like Kenya, to put in place preventive measures to avoid devastation on humanity as was wrought by the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years.