By Elisha Singira

With Monkeypox being declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), experts have called for more public awareness about the disease.

Dr. Otim Patrick Ramadan, Health Emergency Officer at WHO at the Regional Office for Africa speaking during a virtual meeting with journalists said that monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, transmitted from animals to humans, adding that it comes from rodents and some wild animals mostly found in tropical rainforests of Africa.

He further said that the disease manifests itself as fever and rashes and it starts as an asymptomatic infection which if not checked, leads to death.

According to Dr. Otim, there are two stages of infection. The first, primary infection is from animals to human transmission where humans come into contact with infected animals or the reservoir animals then there is secondary infection which is human to human transmission where healthy people come into contact with infected people.

He mentioned that there are two distinct transmission patterns being witnessed in the behavior of monkeypox. One was the sporadic transmission in remote communities which has mainly been observed in Central Africa in a country like Congo. This has been evidenced by the spillover from wild animals to humans with few secondary infection cases witnessed in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and parts of DRC.

Dr. Otim noted that there is also slow continuous-person-person transmission in urban areas as witnessed mainly in West Africa in countries like Nigeria and Ghana. However, he said that there is no clear mode of transmission detected and that the research required more and meticulous epidemiologic investigations.

In terms of continental infections, Dr. Otim noted that Africa had lower number of confirmed cases compared to the European and the American continents. So far, more than 35, 000 cases have been reported in 92 countries according to WHO.

According to Dr. Otim, second generation and third generation smallpox vaccines may be effective against monkeypox of which, MVA-BN, has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox despite doses not being available.

He added that mass vaccination is not recommended for monkeypox at this time and advised that targeted vaccination of individuals at high-risk, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for contact cases and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for health workers at high risk of exposure, laboratory personnel working with orthopox viruses, clinical laboratory personnel performing diagnostic testing for monkeypox and outbreak response team members as may be designed by national public health workers authorities.

Dr.Otim advised that people should avoid unprotected contact with infected people, and wash hands frequently with soap and water especially after caring for sick people. He also discouraged sharing of bedding, clothes, towels or utensils with sick people while recommending for the need to thoroughly cook food and use personal protective equipment when caring for patients as well as people avoiding contact with wild animals.