At a time when Monkeypox has become a hot topic in the nation and is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it has become necessary to provide a comprehensive overview of the disease to keep you well informed so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe and protected.
This piece was put together with your best interests in mind, in order to give you all the basic facts, historical overview, modes of transmission, diagnosis, vaccination or treatment and preventive measures to adhere to in order to avoid the dreaded virus.
But first, let’s begin with a quick look at the meaning and historical background of the monkeypox virus and infection.
According to the World Health Organization, “Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms in humans similar to those seen in the past in Smallpox patients, although less severe.”
History and Outbreaks
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when a pox-like disease was found in colonies of monkeys that were kept for research.
The monkey pox virus was first found in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensive effort geared toward eliminating smallpox. It has been reported in other central and western parts of Africa at different times since then.
According to the Vanguard, “…in 1971, one case was reported in Cote d’Ivore and 2 cases in Nigeria. Then in 1976, there were 2 cases in Cameroon and again in Nigeria in 1978, one case was recorded.”
Another outbreak occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996-97.
The first reported case of Monkeypox outside of Africa was in the Midwest of the United States of America in 2003. The patients were generally found to have had close contact with pet prairie dogs.
Another outbreak, this time back in Africa was found in Unity, Sudan in 2005. Since then other cases have been reported in Congo (2009) and Central African Republic (2016) with 26 cases reported and two deaths.
Recent Outbreak of Moneypox in Nigeria
Since the earlier cases of the infection in Nigeria that were reported in the 1970s, recent cases have been reported as at September, 2017. After receiving several reports of increasing cases of the disease in the country, on Monday, 9th October 2017 the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 31 suspected cases of the infection in Nigeria.
According to the National Cordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the NCDC, the first notification of a suspected Monkey pox outbreak was reported on Sept. 22, 2017 in Bayelsa State. But more cases have been subsequently reported from six other states; Rivers, Ekiti, Ogun, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Lagos. Most of the patients were reportedly hospitalized and their conditions were improving while waiting for further tests and confirmations.
The Akwa Ibom state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong while urging the residents of the state to remain calm in the face of the outbreak, revealed that the only available equipment for confirming the disease was in Senegal and that samples of suspected cases had been sent for confirmation.
Mode of Transmission of Monkeypox
Transmission from one person to another is known to result from the following:
- Contact with the blood of infected animals
- Contact with cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals
- Eating inadequately cooked meat of infected animals is a possible risk factor.
- In Africa human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels, with rodents being the major reservoir of the virus.
- Transmission can also occur by inoculation or via the placenta (congenital monkeypox).
According to the WHO, however “there is no evidence, to date, that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox infections in the human population.”
Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox
The signs and symptoms for monkeypox are similar to those found in smallpox patients although those for monkeypox are usually milder. An infection with the monkeypox virus usually lasts between 5 to 21 days before symptoms become visible. Signs and symptoms usually occur in two periods:
- The invasion period (0 to 5 days) where fever, intense headache, muscle ache, back pain, swelling of the lymph node and general weakness of the body occurs.
- The skin eruption period (within 1 to 3 days after the appearance of fever) here rash appears, first in the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. In approximately 10 days, the rash then evolves from maculopapules( lesions with a flat bases) tovesicles (small fluid-filled blisters), pustules, which are then followed by crusts. The crusts usually disappear after three weeks.
According the WHO, Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 14 to 21 days. Severe cases occur more commonly among children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, patient health status and severity of complications…The case fatality has varied widely between epidemics but has been less than 10% in documented events, mostly among young children. In general, younger age-groups appear to be more susceptible to Monkeypox.
Monkeypox is best diagnosed in the laboratory where the virus can be identified by the following tests:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- Isolation of virus by cell culture
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay
- Tests for antigen detection
Vaccination and Treatment of Monkeypox
Even though vaccinations against smallpox can prevent one from easily contracting the virus, no treatment or vaccinations have been specifically developed for Monkeypox treatment as yet, but outbreaks are usually contained using intensive supportive care.
Monkeypox Prevention Methods
Different measures can be taken to prevent infection with the Monkeypox virus. The following are some important ones:
- Avoid contact with infected animals
- Wash your hands with soap and water after contact with animals
- Potentially infected animals should be isolated from other animals and placed into immediate quarantine and observed for monkeypox symptoms for 30 days.
- Precautionary methods should be adopted when caring for sick relatives
- All suspected cases should be reported to the Local Government Area or State Disease Surveillance Notification Officers or the nearest health center for immediate and necessary action.
- Health workers should adhere to universal best practices when handling patients or suspected cases.
- Vaccination against smallpox has also proven to be 85% effective in the prevention of monkeypox in the past but production of the vaccine has been discontinued due to the reported world-wide eradication of smallpox.