Act now lest monkeypox turns ‘Covid-19’

A person infected with monkeypox. Dozens of cases of the rare disease have been detected in many parts of the world. PHOTO/HANDOUT


Monkeypox has resurfaced. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, though clinically less severe, is caused by the monkeypox virus which causes fever symptoms and distinctive bumpy rashes.

According to WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease is commonly transmitted through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. Its incubation period is 6-13 days or even 5-21. Various animal species have been identified as susceptible to it.

There are two clades of the monkeypox virus: The West African clade and the Congo Basin (Central African) clade. The endemic countries are Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.

The name “monkeypox” originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958. The first human case was identified in a child in the DRC in 1970.

So far, 14 countries have confirmed cases, says WHO, the latest being Israel and Switzerland. Europe has the most cases.

Experts say the disease occurs mostly in West and Central Africa and only very occasionally spreads everywhere but that should not give us comfort in East Africa. We need to take preventive measures before it emerges to be a pandemic—like Covid-19.

Experts say monkeypox is not going to cause a nationwide epidemic—as was the case with Covid-19. But WHO recently warned countries to expect more cases. It is high time countries put preventive and control measures in place so that, in case it attacks the vulnerable countries, they can easily contain its spread.

Monkeypox is relative to smallpox, which was eradicated in 1979; the difference is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell, which smallpox doesn’t. Therefore, as a first preventive measure, countries should conduct mandatory vaccination of their citizens against smallpox. And since it is spread through close contact, the spread of the disease can be contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.

According to the CDC, treatment of monkeypox is generally supportive as there are no specific drugs available; however, a vaccine that can prevent development of the disease is available. Nobody wants to go back to Covid-19 times; let every possible action be taken to avoid that.

There is hope, however, to stop monkeypox. If we fought off Covid-19, why not monkeypox? Remember, there can be no development without good health.

Rodgers Otiso, Nakuru


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