Monkeypox: Health Expert Calls For End To Stigmatisation

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…Says anyone can get infected  


Following news making the rounds that gay men are most susceptible to contracting the Monkeypox, a public health expert, Dr. Gabriel Adakole, has cautioned on the stigmatization of such people and insisted that anyone can get infected by the virus.

Adakole made this assertion during an interview monitored in Abuja yesterday (May 30, 2022). 

Recall that the World Health Organization (WHO), was notified of two laboratory-confirmed cases and one probable case of Monkeypox from the same household in the United Kingdom. 

The West African clade of monkeypox was identified in the two confirmed cases using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) on vesicle swabs on May 12 and 13 May, 2022. 

On May 15, 2022, WHO was notified of four additional laboratory-confirmed cases, all identified among men who have sex with men (MSM) attending sexual health services and presented with a vesicular rash. All four were confirmed to have the West African clade of the monkeypox virus. 

The ongoing monkeypox outbreak currently poses a moderate risk to global public health, WHO said in a statement at the weekend. Nevertheless, this has raised the spectre of the virus becoming entrenched as a pathogen that spreads from person to person.

The WHO said that 23 countries have reported a total of 257 confirmed cases and roughly 120 suspected cases under investigation as of May 26 – a rapid accumulation of cases in an unprecedented outbreak that was first detected earlier this month. To date, most of the cases have been diagnosed in Europe and North America. 

The United States had detected 12 cases as of Friday. “Currently, the overall public health risk at [a] global level is assessed as moderate, considering this is the first time that monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in widely disparate WHO geographical areas.

“The public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen and spreads to groups at higher risk of severe diseases such as young children and immune-suppressed persons,’’ the global health agency said, noting that since smallpox vaccination ceased more than 40 years ago, an ever-growing portion of the global population is vulnerable to the monkeypox virus. 

The expert said it was particularly important for Nigerians to be aware of the symptoms if they are MSM. 

“You have a rash with blisters, you’ve been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past 3 weeks. 

“You’re a man who has sex with men. Tell the person you speak to if you’ve had close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox, or if you’ve recently travelled to central or other West African countries like Ghana and Togo. 

“I don’t know if we have sexual health clinic in Nigeria. If yes, this is not the best time to visit. Stay at home and avoid close contact with other people until you’ve been told what to do,” he explained. 

According to him, monkeypox is a rare infection that’s mainly found in parts of West or Central Africa. But there have been some recent cases in more than 23 countries and, so far, the risk of contracting it is low.

He said that monkeypox can be caught from infected rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels. 

“You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you’re bitten or you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.

“It may also be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal from Central or West Africa that has not been cooked thoroughly or by touching other products from infected animals (such as animal skin or fur). 

“Monkeypox can also spread from person to person through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash, touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs including during sex, the sputum of a person with the monkeypox rash,” he said. 

He stressed that the first symptoms of monkeypox usually take between five and 21 days to appear. 

“The first symptoms of monkeypox include a high temperature, a headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering and exhaustion. 

“A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body. This can include the genitals. The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox.  

“It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off. The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks,” he explained.  

Adakole said that the treatment for monkeypox is mild and most people recover within a few weeks without treatment. 

“But, as the infection can spread through close contact, it’s important to isolate if you’re diagnosed with it. You may be asked to isolate yourself at home if your symptoms are mild. If your symptoms are severe or you’re at higher risk of getting seriously ill (for example, if you have a weakened immune system), you may need to stay in a health facility until you recover.

“In some countries with vaccines offers a vaccination to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill. I don’t know if we have such at the moment in the country,” he said.  

Although he could not explain if the pox was more serious than the COVID-19 pandemic, he said it was rare. Despite that, he outlined things people can do to reduce their risk of getting it, likewise with COVID-19.  

“Wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, only eat meat that has been cooked thoroughly and do not go near wild or stray animals, including dead animals. Do not go near any animals that appear unwell. Do not eat or touch meat from wild animals (‘bushmeat’). 

“Do not share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox, do not have close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox,” he advised.  

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in its latest report on monkeypox, said Nigeria recorded six cases and one death. He explained that Nigeria’s risk of exposure to the monkeypox virus is high based on recent risk assessments conducted. 

The NCDC said that among the 21 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus or changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence).

Racheal Abujah
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