Explainer: Here’s All You Need To Know About The Monkeypox Virus

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According to WHO, monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that arises from the monkeypox virus, a part of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the Poxviridae group. In 1970, the first case of Monkeypox in people was discovered in a 9-year old boy, in the same area where smallpox was eradicated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since this finding, more news emerged from rural areas in the Congo Basin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it’s deemed endemic.

Since the emergence of the disease, more incidences have been announced in 11 African countries; the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Benin, the Republic of the Congo and Benin. 40 years after the previously verified incident, Nigeria encountered the biggest recorded epidemic in 2017.

What’s happening?

In the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)’s latest report, Nigeria has identified at least 66 cases of Monkeypox within the country. Furthermore, the body stated that there are 21 confirmed cases and one death case. NCDC claimed that Nigeria has reported occasional cases of Monkeypox since 2017. Other countries around the world where the virus reportedly broke out include The United Kingdom. Italy, the United States Of America and Canada.

This year, a total of 21 confirmed cases with one death have been announced from 9 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – Lagos (4), Bayelsa (2), Cross River (2), Kano (2), Imo (1), FCT (2), Rivers (1), Adamawa (5) and Delta (2), 

The body stated that the only death case was disclosed in a 40-year-old patient who had suffered from multiple illnesses at the same time and was on immunosuppressive medications.

The NCDC stated that of the 21 cases announced this year, there had been no proof of any current or abnormal spreading of the virus, nor variation in its scientific presentation recorded.

It said a National Technical Working Group (TWG) was created and equipped with the job of tracking infections and improving awareness and feedback adequacy. According to the Disease Agency, Genomic supervision was consistent at NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and until now, every case has been identified to be induced by the Monkeypox virus.

“The TWG coordinated the development of national Monkeypox guidelines, capacity building of healthcare workers and surveillance officers on case detection, sample collection, laboratory testing for confirmation and sequencing of the virus at NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory”.

How can the monkeypox virus be transmitted ?

For transmission between animals to people, monkeypox can be passed when one is exposed to the blood, bodily liquid, and cutaneous or mucosal injuries of infected animals. Monkeypox virus infection has been discovered in Africa and in a lot of animals like Gambian pouched rats and squirrels. The main source of monkeypox is yet to be confirmed, however, rodents are possible. Consuming poorly prepared meat and produce from infected animals pose a high risk of infection. People indirectly residing in or close to forested regions makes them vulnerable to infected animals.

For transmission between people, the spreading can stem from being in close proximity to an infected person, respiratory discharge, skin injuries of an infected individual or recently contaminated entities. Transmission can also happen through the placenta from mother to fetus, through direct contact, in the course of giving birth or after. While direct physical contact poses a danger of spreading, it hasn’t been proven that the virus can be transmitted via sexual relations.

Symptoms of the Monkeypox virus

Just like smallpox, monkeypox starts with symptoms associated with flu, growing of the lymph nodes and a rash from head to toe. The maturing phase is typically from 6 to 13 days and can span between 5 to 21 days. While Monkeypox can be contracted by being in direct contact with infected animals, people can recover from the disease. 

“Symptoms of monkeypox include sudden fever, headache, body pain, weakness, sore throat, enlargement of glands (lymph nodes) in the neck and under the jaw, followed by the appearance of a rash (often solid or fluid-filled at the onset) on the face, palms, soles of the feet, genitals and other parts of the body,” NCDC said.

Is there a cure for the monkeypox virus?

Through various experimental studies, the smallpox vaccine was shown to be over 85% effective in curbing monkeypox. However, previous smallpox vaccination may lead to less severe sickness. In 2019, a recent vaccine derived from an improved weakened vaccinia virus (Ankara strain) was accepted to curb monkeypox. The vaccine though low in supply comes with two dosages. The vaccines for smallpox and monkeypox are growing in production based on the vaccinia virus as a result of the cross-protection provided for the immune reaction to orthopoxviruses.

What’s next?

NCDC mentioned that the Emergency Operations Centre for Monkeypox would continue to keep track of the developing incident to enlighten public health action accordingly. The NCDC advised citizens to be mindful of the risks that come with Monkeypox and to follow public health safety instructions. The organization also encouraged the citizens to report any signs and symptoms of the virus to the nearest health centre. Furthermore, the body also urged healthcare workers to keep a good record of traces of Monkeypox and report any possible case to the suitable state Epidemiology Team for immediate public health involvement as well as sampling for validatory testing.

“No source of infection has yet been confirmed for either the family or GBMSM clusters,” On Wednesday WHO said in a statement. “Based on currently available information, the infection seems to have been locally acquired in the United Kingdom. The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is the possibility of identification of further cases.”

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