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EXPLAINER: Monkeypox is spreading in Nigeria. What is the disease, how can you prevent it ?

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MONKEYPOX is a disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus, part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox and cowpox.

Monkeypox is an endemic virus to West and Central Africa. The virus was first detected in captive monkeys in 1958. The first human case was recorded in 1970.

Though the natural reservoir of monkeypox remains unknown, various animal species such as Rope squirrels, Tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, Dormice, Rodents, Rats, non-human primates and other species have been identified as the natural hosts which may harbour the virus and infect people.

Monkeypox in Nigeria

Rising cases have been reported across 10 African countries, including Nigeria, which in 2017 experienced the largest documented outbreak, with 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization(WHO). 

In its latest report, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) stated that between January 1 and June 5 alone, the country had confirmed a total of 31 cases in 12 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The NCDC also confirmed that no fewer than 110 suspected cases of the disease had been reported in the country, up from the previous 66 suspected cases.

“From January 1st to 5th June 2022, there have been 110 suspected cases in total and 31 confirmed cases from twelve (12) states – Adamawa (5), Lagos (6), River (3), Cross River (2), FCT (2), Kano (2), Delta (2), Bayelsa (2), Edo (2), Imo (2), Plateau (2), and Ondo (1). One death was recorded in a 40-year-old man with co-morbidity that was receiving immunosuppressive drugs.

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“There were 10 new positive cases in Epi week 22, 2022, from six states – Edo (2), Rivers (2), Plateau (2), Lagos (2), Ondo (1) and Imo (1),” the agency said in its report.

In addition, from September 2017 to June 5th, 2022, a total of nine (9) deaths have been recorded (CFR= 3.5%) in six states – Lagos (3), Edo (2), Imo (1), Cross River (1), FCT (1) and Rivers (1).”

How can you contract Monkeypox?

According to Centre for Disease Control(CDC), Monkeypox can be contracted through the following ways:

  1. When a person comes into contact with an infected animal, infected person, or materials contaminated with the virus. 

2. The virus can also cross the placenta from the mother to her fetus.

  1. You can also catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you’re bitten or touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.

4. The virus may also spread through direct contact with body fluids or sores on an infected person or with materials that have touched body fluids or sores, such as clothing or linens.

  1. Monkeypox spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact.
  2. Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox. The main difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not.

Fever, Headache, Muscle aches, Backache, Swollen lymph nodes, Chills and Exhaustion, have been identified as the initial symptoms of the disease.

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Patients typically develop a rash one to three days after the appearance of fever, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The rash, which can cause severe itching, then goes through several stages before the legions scab and fall off. The infection typically lasts two to four weeks and usually clears up on its own.

How do you prevent Monkeypox?

The CDC recommends a number of  preventive measures that can be taken to prevent contracting the monkeypox virus:

1. Avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).

2. Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding that has been in contact with a sick animal.

  1. Avoid unnecessary contact with Monkeypox patients.

4. Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

5. Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.

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You can report all cases with the associated symptoms mentioned above to the nearest health facility for care, and/or call NCDC toll-free line on 6232

The Nigerian Government’s Response

On May 26, 2022, the NCDC activated a national multisectoral Emergency Operations Centre for Monkeypox (MPX-EOC) at level 2 to strengthen and coordinate ongoing response activities in-country while contributing to the global response.

This was based on a preliminary risk assessment report done by a group of subject matter experts from the NCDC, relevant government Ministries Departments and Agencies and partner agencies.

The essence of the activation was to improve the coordination of related preparedness/response activities across the country.

Author profile

Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice and good governance. You can shoot him an email via nyahaya@icirnigeria.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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