As monkeypox continues to spread globally, health experts with the World Health Organisation (WHO) have explained the risk factors associated with the virus, during a facebook live session on Monday.
According to the WHO Technical Lead for monkeypox, Rosamund Lewis, close contact with monkeypox patients is the most significant risk factor for monkeypox virus infection, adding that the virus is moving into older populations, even in the endemic setting.
She added that measures to curtail the further spread of the virus should be taken before it reaches more vulnerable people and makes itself a replacement for smallpox in the broader population.
“Health workers, doctors, nurses and health authorities, governments need to realise this is something they need to work on. Get tested, train health workers and raise awareness, so that the cases that are occurring can be detected quickly and so that transmission and for the spread can be stopped, that is the objective,” she said
Meanwhile, in the lasted publication on the WHO website, between May 13 and 26, 2022, 23 member states that are non-endemic for mokeypox have reported a cumulative total of 257 laboratory confirmed cases and around 120 suspected cases.
The United Kingdom topped the infection log with 106 cases, followed by Portugal and Canada with 49 and 26 cases respectively.
On a separate log, five African countries were listed under countries endemic for monkeypox, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the chart with 1,284 infections and 58 deaths between January 1 to May 8, 2022.
According to the log, Nigeria recorded 46 infections between January and April 2022, with no fatalities. Cameroon is said to have reported 25 infections with nine deaths between December 2021 and May 1, 2022, while the two other countries are the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.ⓘ
What to look out for
Speaking on the kind of symptoms people should be aware of, the WHO Advisor on HIV, Hepatitis and STI programmes, Andy Seale, said the critical thing that people need to do is really look out for any unusual rash, sudden onset of fever, or swelling in lymph nodes.
“And of course, be conscious of your own social networks. If you hear from a previous or current partner, whether it’s a social partner or somebody that you’ve had a sexual relationship with, that they’re either unwell, take extra care and seek health advice,” he added.
Similarly, in an explainer on the WHO website, the incubation period of monkeypox, which is the interval from infection to onset of symptoms is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.
The global health body says the infection can be divided into invasion period and skin eruption.
It said; “The invasion period lasts between 0 to 5 days and is characterized by fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle aches) and intense asthenia (lack of energy).
“While the skin eruption usually begins within 1 to 3 days of the appearance of fever. It mostly affects the face in 95 per cent of cases, and palms of the hands and soles of the feet in 75 per cent of cases.”
When asked about the kind of vaccine that is available for the prevention, Mrs Lewis explained that the monkeypox virus is related to the virus that did cause smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1980 worldwide, suggesting that the smallpox vaccine is an alternative.
Corroborating that, the explainer on the WHO website stated that the vaccination against smallpox was demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox.
However, the WHO warned that any request for vaccines should be directed through health authorities at national level.
On how monkeypox relates to smallpox, WHO explained that the clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox. Smallpox was more easily transmitted and more often fatal as about 30 per cent of patients died, while the last case of naturally acquired smallpox occurred in 1977.
Clades of monkeypox
Speaking further, Mrs Lewis said the WHO has been monitoring the monkeypox infection since it was first discovered in 1958, and since the first human being was found to have this virus in the 1970.
“And so since that time, it has been learned that there are two clades of the virus: one is the Central African region called the Congo Basin clade and second is the West Africa region called the West African clade
“Historically, monitoring the disease for 50 years, we have seen that the West Africa clade seems to cause less severe illness overall, fewer deaths.
“While the Congo Basin clade is as high as 10 per cent, as children are also at higher risk, and monkeypox during pregnancy may lead to complications, congenital monkeypox, or stillbirth,” she said.
The WHO explainer also stated that the genomes of the recorded infections belong to the West African clade of monkeypox virus.
Public health response
As a means to curb the further spread of the infection, WHO said public health outbreak investigations are ongoing in countries that have identified cases, including extensive case finding and contact tracing, laboratory investigation, clinical management and case isolation.
It added that smallpox and monkeypox vaccines, where available, are being deployed in a limited number of countries to manage close contacts.
WHO said; “While smallpox vaccines have been shown to be protective against monkeypox, there is also one vaccine approved for prevention of monkeypox.
“This vaccine is based on a strain of vaccinia virus (known generically as modified vaccinia Ankara Bavarian Nordic strain, or MVA-BN).
“This vaccine has been approved for prevention of monkeypox in Canada and the United States of America. In the European Union, this vaccine has been approved for prevention of smallpox.”(Premium Times)