The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that the nearly 5,000 human infections with Monkeypox that have been reported worldwide are not a plot to cause a lockdown like that related to the noel COVID-19 pandemic.
The director-general of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this yesterday (June 28, 2022) during a virtual media dialogue to curb misinformation about the infection in the country.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), from January to June 22, 2022, 42 countries across five regions have reported a cumulative total of 3,413 confirmed cases with over 90 per cent recorded in non-endemic countries.
The WHO European Region topped the infection with 2,933 cases, representing 86 per cent of the total cases, followed by the Americas with 381, amounting to 11 per cent.
Africa came third on the log with 73 cases, representing two per cent of the global cases reported from six countries, with Nigeria topping the list.
Nigeria is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Cameroon and Congo.
Meanwhile, the Monkeypox emergency committee convened by the WHO began its deliberations in Geneva. The experts represented therein must assess whether this is an “emergency of international concern”, the highest alert level that the WHO can impose. It last did this when Sars-CoV-2 appeared on January 30, 2020.
Adetifa stressed that contrary to the belief in some quarters, “Monkeypox is not a plot to cause lockdowns like COVID-19 and there is no evidence of the release of the virus from a laboratory”.
The NCDC DG said though rare, Monkeypox is not a novel disease.
“In Nigeria, there has been no observed change in transmissibility of the virus nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence) nor is their evidence of sexual transmission,” he said.
He decried what he described as “widespread misinformation about the infection”, especially in the country.
The NCDC boss admitted that there was an uptick in Monkeypox cases in the country and concluded that, if not contained, it could exceed the peak number of cases seen in 2017 when the infection re-emerged.
Apart from misinformation, he also stressed that the discrimination and stigmatisation that comes with the monkeypox infection needs urgent intervention across the globe.
According to him, prevailing media perception and misinformation on monkeypox has fuelled false narratives about the virus, and the potential risk of discrimination and stigmatisation from this requires urgent social and behaviour change intervention.
Since its sudden resurgence in 2017, a multi-agency technical working group (TWG) coordinated at the NCDC has led Nigeria’s efforts to improve the detection, prevention and control of Monkeypox.
“Importantly, we have gained a better understanding of the epidemiology of the virus to inform preparedness and response in-country,” he said.
He said that genomic sequencing is ongoing at NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory to identify possible mutations and the epidemiology of the virus.
According to him, NCDC is supporting the global effort to respond to the disease as well as pushing for the renaming and re-classification of the virus to a “non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising nomenclature”.
“Monkeypox is a priority despite being neglected for years, especially during outbreaks as we have had in Nigeria and neighbouring countries such as DRC a few years back.
“While it is unfortunate that it takes such a global spread for the needed attention to be given, here in Nigeria, it has remained a priority for us,” he said.
Speaking, the country representative of the WHO, Dr. Walter Mulombo, urged journalists to address misconceptions about Monkeypox disease which has continued to fuel false narratives about Nigeria globally.
“What is important is to avert any potential inequitable access to vaccines experienced by African countries, including Nigeria, in the early stages of a pandemic,” he said.
Mulombo, who was represented by the deputy country representative, Dr. Alexander Chimbaru said that the rumours and misinformation would cause more harm and loss of lives than the monkeypox disease itself.
He disclosed that a new vaccine (MVA-BN) against Smallpox and Monkeypox has been approved but is not yet widely available outside national stockpiles.
Chimbaru explained that investigations of the infection were ongoing, noting that most recent cases of this atypical outbreak continue to primarily affect men who have sex with men, for which the underlying factors were being studied.
The head, risk communication at the NCDC, Dr. Yahaya Disu, said that the Nigeria infodemic management, which has activities both at the national level and the six political zone, supports professional, diverse and independent media’s capacity to report on the pandemic and other infectious diseases across the country.
Disu said that the implemented interventions to tackle evolving Monkeypox infodemics include a public baseline perception survey to inform interventions and orientation of media stakeholders.
“The Nigeria Infodemic Management Team has also commenced Monkeypox information surveillance and response.
“Monkeypox is more likely to become an infodemic than a pandemic with serious consequences to the world without a proactive and collective response,” he explained.
In her remarks, the incident manager of the National Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), NCDC, Dr. Lateefat Ama, gave the breakdown of Monkeypox and case description in the country.
According to Amao, from January 1 to June 26 2022, there have been 204 suspected cases in total, 62 confirmed cases from 19 states and one death in a 40-year-old man with co-morbidity that was receiving immunosuppressive drugs.