Monkeypox is a rare viral disease caused by a double-stranded DNA, zoonotic virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus in the family Poxviridae, called monkeypox virus (MPXV). It afflicts humans with symptoms similar to smallpox.
The first recorded identification of the virus was in Copenhagen, Denmark, when State Serum Institute was investigating a disease among laboratory monkeys that appeared like the pox disease. However, the first reported human case was that of a 9 year old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970, then known as Zaire. Since then, there have been major outbreaks of monkeypox in Central and Western Africa.
The monkeypox virus is majorly associated with rodents (squirrel, grasscuter, rabbit, rat, mouse, etc.), some of which are popularly called “bush meat” in Nigeria.
In 2003, there was an outbreak of monkeypox in the U.S.A, where 71 persons were affected, but no death was recorded. Since then, cases have been reported in several other countries, and majorly in Africa.
The current Nigerian outbreak is the third in the country, as it had formerly occurred in 1971 and 1978, and it is suspected to be of West African origin. Laboratory experiments and reported cases over the years have put Central and Western Africa as the predominant locality of the monkeypox virus.
However, the strain of monkeypox is associated with milder symptoms, fewer fatalities and limited human-to-human transmission.
Monkeypox is a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 14-21 days with or without treatment. The fatality rate is 1% and 10%, occurring more in younger age groups. In essence, though the virus is similar to the smallpox virus, it is milder in terms of rate of fatality.
Monkeypox is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced by talking, sneezing, coughing, as well as physical contacts with infected persons and contaminated materials used by infected persons. People can also catch the disease from direct contact with infected animals, and eating inadequately cooked (possibly infected) “bush meat” is a possible high risk factor.
Signs and Symptoms
Incubation period for the monkeypox virus is 10–14 days, and approximately two weeks after exposure with the virus, an infected person will start feeling feverish, feel pain in their muscles, feel exhausted, develop rashes with raised bumps that last for two to four weeks. Usually, the rashes appear only on the trunk (that is, the body, excluding the head, neck, hands and legs), but it is capable of moving away from the centre (trunk), spreading to the palms and soles of the feet, and to other parts of the body. The initial abnormal structural change in the muscles starts appearing in the form of a sac (swelling) containing fluids, then, like a blister containing pus.
Comparison with Smallpox and Chickenpox
Monkeypox in humans is milder than chickenpox and smallpox. That is not to say we should pay less attention to the disease because monkeypox is fatal, and does not have a dedicated vaccine. However, research, as well as practice have shown that smallpox vaccine protects reliably against monkeypox in humans. Monkeypox is closely related to smallpox as they both belong to the Orthopoxvirus genus. Though, monkeypox is not related to chickenpox, clinical distinction is as well difficult. However, it is important for everyone to know that smallpox was completely and successfully eradicated in humans, and chickenpox can be treated effectively. Hence, it is an indication that monkeypox which is milder than both smallpox and chickenpox can be treated very effectively.
Current Cases of Monkeypox in Nigeria
In Nigeria, an outbreak of suspected cases of monkeypox was recorded in Bayelsa State on 22nd September, 2017. The index case appears to be a medical doctor who has been quarantined with 10 others. So far, suspected cases of the monkeypox virus in Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Enugu, and Cross River States are being investigated, and no death has been recorded.
Prevention and Control
To prevent the spread of monkeypox virus, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:
- Avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus (monkeys, squirrels, grasscuters, rabbits, rats, mice, other rodents and “bush meat”), including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where the disease occurs.
- Those fond of eating bush meats should either stop or reduce consumption in this trying times.
- Avoid contact with any material such as bedding, towel, utensils, etc., that has been in contact with a sick animal or used by an infected person.
- Isolate infected persons from others who could be at risk of infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, wash your hands with soap and water very well, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Health care givers should use personal protective equipment when caring for patients. This is important as exposing your skin and hand carelessly to infected patients could lead to contracting the disease.
- Be at alert, be watchful and reduce handshakes as much as possible especially in the localities where the disease has been identified.
Report any suspected case to the nearest health facility. For emergencies, contact the following phone numbers:
- Call: 08009700010
- SMS: 08099555577
- WhatsApp: 07087110839
This is an enlightenment call for everyone to live and act with understanding. We encourage everyone to take preventive measures recommended here. All hands must be on deck to make Nigeria a safe place for all.