Just recently, precisely on May 7, 2022, the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed a monkeypox case in the country. It is believed the patient contracted the rare viral infection from Nigeria, where the patient left for the UK.
The patient is receiving treatment in an isolation unit and being cared for at the expert infectious disease unit of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, alerts of little-known diseases like monkeypox can seem alarming, but experts have insisted its overall risk to the general public is very low.
Lagos and Adamawa states had the highest figures of three each as Nigeria recorded 15 confirmed cases of monkeypox in seven states between January 1 and April 30, 2022.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control disclosed this in its latest monkeypox situation report on Tuesday, even as it said no death had been recorded this year as a result of the disease.
The NCDC situation report read, “Since September 2017, Nigeria has continued to report sporadic cases of monkeypox. The Monkeypox National Technical Working Group has been monitoring cases and strengthening preparedness/response capacity.
“A total of 46 suspected cases have been reported between January 1 and April 30, 2022. Of the suspected cases, 15 were confirmed from seven states – Adamawa (3), Lagos (3), Cross River (2), Federal Capital Territory (2), Kano (2), Delta (2), and Imo (1) – but no death has been recorded.”
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. The Orthopoxvirus genus also includes variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccine virus (used in the smallpox vaccine), and cowpox virus.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.
Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and West African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.
Monkeypox cases in people have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including cases in the United States of America, as well as Israel, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
The reservoir host (main disease carrier) of monkeypox is still unknown although African rodents are suspected to play a part in transmission.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox does not spread easily between people. It is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.
The infection can spread when someone comes in close contact with an infected person, but the risk of transmission to the general population is very low, the UKHSA has said.
Dr Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA, said: “It is important to emphasize that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.”
You can catch monkeypox by touching the spots or scabs of someone infected or their clothes or bedding, and it can be passed on from sneezing and coughing.
However, it is considered unlikely that the virus will be spread from one human to the other. It is more likely that the virus would come from direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal.
Signs and Symptoms
In humans, 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 while smallpox does not.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox has eight symptoms which do not usually show up for at least five days. This “incubation period” could last up to 13 or 21 days before it is clear that the person has monkeypox.
In the initial five days, the symptoms are: A high temperature of 38°C or above, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, chills, exhaustion and skin rash filled with liquid.
The rash usually appears within the initial five days. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 95 per cent of cases, the rash affects the face, and in 75 per cent it affects the hands.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent monkeypox infection. They include: avoiding contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs); avoiding contact with any materials, such as bedding, that have been in contact with a sick animal; isolating infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection; practicing good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans; using personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.