By Kayode Solomon Ojewale
Monkeypox is an infectious viral zoonotic (transmitted to humans from animals) disease that is caused by infection with monkey pox virus. The virus is transmitted to humans from infected animals, most commonly rodents. There is also the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the disease when a person comes into contact with another person who is infected with the virus. One can also contract monkeypox if they come in contact with materials contaminated with the virus that causes this disease.
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to that of smallpox infection. They include fever, skin rash (which looks like blisters), headache, backache, swollen lymph nodes (glands), chills and unusual tiredness among others. These symptoms may last two to three weeks as the period of manifestation. This means that the incubation period (infection to manifestation of symptoms) is about 14 to 21 days – that is how long it takes for someone to know if they have monkeypox.
Few days ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria banned the sales and consumption of bush meats in order to prevent the spread of Monkeypox pathogen. The announcement of the ban was made through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development following the official confirmation of Monkeypox in Nigeria by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on 29th May, 2022. One person had been confirmed dead with 21 others infected with the virus as at the date mentioned above.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Abubakar Mohammed, issued a statement urging hunters and dealers of bush meats to stop the business. In the words of the Agriculture Minister, “Hunters and dealers of ‘bushmeat’ must desist from the practice to prevent any possibility of ‘spillover’ of the pathogen in Nigeria. Transport of wild animals and their products within and across borders should be suspended/restricted.Silos, stores and other agricultural storage facilities must institute active rodent control measures to prevent contacts and possible contamination of Monkeypox virus with foodstuff.” Dr. Abubakar ordered the operators of zoos, parks, conservation and recreational centres who keep non-human primates in their domains to ensure strict compliance with biosecurity protocols in order to prevent human contacts. He then advised fellow compatriots to report any pox-like lesions seen on humans or animals to the nearest human or veterinary clinics.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in a post on its website revealed recently that sexual intercourse is also a mode of transmission of the monkeypox disease. The post by NCDC, which highlighted some symptoms of the illness, read in parts, “…After about one to three days of fever, the rash erupts, beginning on the face and then spreading to the body with the face and palms/soles being mostly affected. They can also occur in and around the genitals which is why contact during sex is one mode of transmission.” It must be noted that, when monkeypox virus infects persons with any underlying ailments or suffering from some diseases, it becomes deadlier in such patients as their immune systems would not be able to handle such infections.
According to NCDC, “Measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkeypox virus include: avoiding contact with animals that could harbor the virus, both sick or dead animals in areas where monkeypox cases have occurred; avoiding contact with any material that has been in contact with a sick animal; thoroughly cooking any animal that might have come into contact with an infected animal; handling them with standard precautions and observing monkeypox symptoms for 30 days and washing with soap and water after contact with infected animals.”
Everyone has their role to play by personally and regularly adhering to good hygiene practices such as regular hand-washing as one of the preventive measures. Others include avoiding contact with animals and persons suspected to be infected with monkeypox. Wearing a mask, our new normal since Covid-19 outbreak, is another good preventive measure to stay safe from monkeypox infection. These preventive measures are imperative in combatting this pox disease because the monkeypox virus gets into the body through the mucus membranes (nose, mouth and eyes), respiratory tracts and damaged skin.
It is expected that governments at all levels step up their surveillance to prevent an outbreak as there is great chance of easy spread in rural areas if the dwellers are not well enlightened on what the disease is about and hence, they will remain uninformed or ill-informed on safety measures to take. The awareness campaign should not be limited to platforms where only the educated class can access; rather it should be taken to primary health centres, markets and farms where the less educated and less privileged may be located. Intensifying public awareness at the grassroots would provide good knowledge on disease mitigation, control and prevention and this in turn saves lives.
Sadly, since there is no proven safe treatment for monkeypox at the moment, it means there is also no cure, so the onus to keep safe lies individually on each of us. For prevention of outbreak of monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine and antivirals can be used. It is also important that Nigerians go for medical tests when they feel symptoms of malaria because monkeypox shares same symptoms too.
In order to forestall a global health crisis, as Covid-19 did, the warning signs and omens of monkeypox outbreak must not go unheeded as it becomes obligatory for everyone to be on red alert!
Ojewale, of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, writes via [email protected]