East African Community Countries States are being requested to provide necessary information regarding Monkeypox outbreaks so as to raise awareness among residents on how to prevent the disease from spreading.
There are no cases of Monkeypox in Tanzania or Kenya, not even in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
But as it happens, the Democratic Republic of Congo is already affected.
This follows reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 780 laboratory confirmed cases of Monkeypox.
“Due to proximity of the EAC Partner States to some of the affected countries, it is important that we take precautions to minimize its spread. People must be given necessary information on the nature of the disease and how they can protect themselves and prevent the disease from spreading. It is important to provide necessary information without causing unnecessary concern.”Christophe Bazivamo – EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that Africa has documented 1,597 suspected cases of the virus since the start of 2022, of which 66 have been fatal.
Eight African countries now had confirmed cases, including Nigeria, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo where it is endemic, but also Benin and Ghana where the virus is not normally found.
World Health Organization says there are 1,392 suspected cases of Monkeypox in seven African countries and 44 of them confirmed.
According to WHO, the sudden appearance of Monkeypox in multiple countries across the world indicates the virus has been spreading undetected for some time outside the West and Central African nations where it is usually found.
Monkeypox virus was first discovered in monkeys in 1958, with the first human case detected in the African region in 1970.
Since then, there have been multiple outbreaks of the viral disease which spread from animals to humans and also between people.
Transmission is possible through close contact with an infected person, or objects including clothes and bedsheets as well as droplets.
Symptoms typically include skin rash or lesions, fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, general body weakness and swollen lymph nodes and last from two to four weeks.
In many patients, the symptoms are moderate and clear up on their own but severe cases and even death can occur.
WHO states the case fatality ratio, or the percent of people dying compared to those diagnosed, to be around 3-6 percent.
In comparison to COVID-19, which is a highly contagious disease, transmission of monkeypox is more difficult.
WHO assesses the current risk posed by Monkeypox to human health and for the general public as low.
To reduce the risk of contracting the virus, people should:
- Avoid coming into contact with people recently diagnosed with the virus or those who may have been infected.
- Wear a face mask when in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
- Use personal protective equipment when caring for patients with confirmed or suspected Monkeypox infection.
- Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizers, especially after coming into contact with infected or infection-suspected animals or humans.
- Regularly wash clothing and bedsheets at high temperature
- Only eat meat that has been cooked thoroughly.
- Avoid coming into contact with sick animals that could be carrying the virus, such as rodents or non-human primates and refrain from eating or handling so-called bush meat.
A person who suspects to have contracted Monkeypox should self-isolate him or herself from physical contact with others and seek medical advice immediately. The virus causing Monkeypox belongs to the same group as the smallpox virus, however, it is a much milder and less deadly form of it.
Vaccination against smallpox has been shown to be protective against Monkeypox and a new vaccine against smallpox and Monkeypox has been approved but is not yet widely available.
An antiviral to treat the Monkeypox virus has been recently approved in the United States of America and in the European Union. Otherwise, treatment aims to ease the symptoms and includes, for example, painkillers.