As the world slowly moves forward from the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted the whole healthcare system and caused massive disruptions in economies, we are confronted with yet another health threat: Monkeypox.
As of June 23, WHO recorded more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox, and one death, from 48 countries including Nigeria, and in five WHO regions.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, told members during the first meeting of WHO’s Emergency Committee over the global Monkeypox outbreak on Thursday that person-to-person transmission was ongoing and “likely underestimated.”
He went on to say, the spread of the disease, both in non-endemic and endemic countries, “cannot be ignored.”
Multiple cases of monkeypox are being identified in several non-endemic countries in May. This is not typical of past patterns of monkeypox. WHO is working with all affected countries to enhance surveillance and provide guidance on stopping the spread and caring for those infected.
In Vietnam, there have been no monkeypox cases recorded so far, Le Thi Thu Hang, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told local media. Hang cited the data from the Health Ministry during a press briefing in Hanoi on Thursday.
The Health Ministry has sent a document to relevant agencies and localities suggesting strengthened surveillance, prevention, and early detection of cases at border gates and medical facilities. And that they are aware of this issue along with the risks it brings. Therefore, protecting people’s safety is of utmost concern.
The spokesperson also revealed that the ministry and other government offices have already released communication campaigns to raise awareness about the disease and ways to prevent and control the threats. She added that authorities continue to coordinate with the World Health Organization to monitor the epidemic closely and promptly implement appropriate prevention and control measures.
Vietnam’s more robust approach to handling the monkeypox virus came after Singapore confirmed an imported case on Tuesday. Singapore reported a 40-year-old British flight attendant being the first case ever reported in Southeast Asia since the outbreak began six weeks ago in the UK.
The last monkeypox case detected in the Southeast Asian city-state was three years ago.
What we know about Monkeypox
According to the WHO, Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a zoonotic viral disease that can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread between people.
Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animal hosts include rodents and primates. The risk of catching monkeypox from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those sick or dead (including their meat and blood).
What are the symptoms?
In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks, but in some individuals, they can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborns, children, and people with underlying immune deficiencies may risk more severe symptoms and death from monkeypox.
Before that happens, watch out for the following indicators:
- Fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and a skin rash or lesions
- The rash usually begins within one to three days of the start of a fever. It tends to concentrate on the face, palms of the hands and feet soles of the feet. They can also be found on the mouth, genitals, and eyes.
- Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and then crust, dry up and fall off. The number of lesions on one person can range from a few to several thousand.
Symptoms typically last between 2 to 4 weeks and go away on their own without treatment.
However, complications from severe cases of monkeypox include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections which can lead to loss of vision.
Who is at risk of catching monkeypox?
Anyone with close physical contact with someone who has monkeypox symptoms or an infected animal is at the highest risk of infection. People who were vaccinated against smallpox are likely to have some protection against monkeypox infection.
However, younger people are unlikely to have been vaccinated against smallpox because smallpox vaccination stopped worldwide after smallpox became the first human disease to be eradicated in 1980. Even though people who have been vaccinated against smallpox will have some protection against monkeypox, they also need to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
Newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more severe symptoms and death from monkeypox. Health workers are also at higher risk due to more prolonged virus exposure.
How to reduce the risk?
Raising awareness of risk factors and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to the virus is the main prevention strategy for monkeypox. Some countries have or are developing policies to offer vaccines to persons who may be at risk, such as laboratory personnel, rapid response teams and health workers.
Limit your contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
Regularly clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after contact with the person who is infected, their clothes, bed sheets, towels, and other items or surfaces they have touched or that might have come into contact with their rash or respiratory secretions (e.g., utensils, dishes).
Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and appropriately dispose of contaminated waste (e.g., dressings).
How to treat monkeypox?
Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own without the need for treatment. It is essential to take care of the rash by letting it dry if possible or covering it with a moist dressing to protect the area if needed.
Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes. Mouth rinses and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided.
Vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) may be recommended for severe cases. An antiviral developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat, commercialized as TPOXX) was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022.