Monkey pox: WHO’s ominous data

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealing that Nigeria currently leads on the log of African countries with monkey pox infections and fatalities is a cause for concern by Nigeria’s health authorities, particularly, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this last week during a virtual press briefing tagged, ‘Road to defeating Meningitis by 2030’. She said as of September 8, there are now 524 confirmed cases and 12 deaths across 11 African countries.

Ms Moeti said Nigeria topped the list of the cases recorded, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana. According to Ms Moeti, Nigeria recorded six of the 12 deaths, while Ghana reported four and two recorded in the Central African Republic.

Checks on the CDC monkeypox global map shows that as of September 9, Nigeria had 220 infections, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo with 195 cases and Ghana with 76 cases, while the global infections now stand at 57,527.

“Although no single monkeypox vaccine has been administered to any high-risk group in any of the African countries reporting cases, WHO has provided 39,000 test kits to countries, enabling improved testing rates,” Moeti noted.

Speaking on Africa’s progress with Meningitis Group A, Mrs Moeti acknowledged that not a single case has been reported on the continent in the past five years but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed vaccination campaigns targeting more than 50 million African children.

She also noted that the major outbreaks caused by meningitis Group C have been recorded in seven of the African Sub-Saharan meningitis belt countries in the past nine years.

Recent checks show that the NCDC has yet to update the data on its official website. According to the last situation report on monkeypox dated August 14 and published by the NCDC, Nigeria had four deaths linked to the disease at the time. In the report, it said the four deaths were recorded in four states while 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) reported 530 suspected cases of monkeypox in 32 weeks.

“From 1st January to 14th August 2022, Nigeria has recorded 530 suspected cases with 220 confirmed cases (144 male, 76 female) from 29 states – Lagos (35), Ondo (18), Rivers (16), Bayelsa (14), Adamawa (13), Delta (12), Edo (12), FCT (10), Abia (nine), Nasarawa (nine), Anambra (eight), Imo (eight), Ogun (seven), Plateau (six), Taraba (five), Kwara (five), Kano (five), Gombe (four), Cross River (four), Oyo (four), Borno (three), Benue (three), Katsina (three), Kogi (two), Niger (one), Bauchi (one), Akwa Ibom (one), Ebonyi (one) and Osun (one),” the NCDC said.

“Four associated deaths were recorded from four states in 2022 – Delta (one), Lagos (one), Ondo (one), and Akwa Ibom (one).”

However, the NCDC had on May 26, 2022, activated a national multisectoral Emergency Operations Centre for Monkeypox (MPX-EOC) at level 2 to strengthen and coordinate ongoing response activities in-country while contributing to the global response. This was based on the report of a preliminary risk assessment done by a group of Subject Matter Experts from the NCDC, relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies and partner agencies.

The TWG coordinated the development of national Monkeypox guidelines, capacity building of healthcare workers and surveillance officers on case detection, sample collection, laboratory testing for confirmation and sequencing of the virus at NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory and intensified public awareness through risk communication.

Furthermore, a national One-health risk surveillance and information sharing (NOHRSIS) group has been inaugurated to facilitate timely information exchange on all prioritised zoonotic diseases. NOHRSIS will also strengthen the collaborative efforts of the One health/IHR Unit at the Point of Entry to intensify surveillance for the disease in animals as well as ensure minimal contact with suspected animals.

In addition, the One Health Animal Surveillance team including Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, National Veterinary Research Institute and partners commenced operational research on Monkeypox virus prevalence in small mammals at the human-animal interface since October 2018.

This research has been completed in seven states with a planned roll out in all other states to commence soon. Although Nigeria’s risk of exposure to the Monkeypox virus is high based on the recent risk assessment conducted at NCDC, the current situation in-country and globally has shown no significant threat to life or the community that can result in severe disease or high case fatality rate.

Symptoms of monkeypox include sudden fever, headache, body pain, weakness, sore throat, enlargement of glands (lymph nodes) in the neck and under the jaw, followed by the appearance of a rash (often solid or fluid-filled at the onset) on the face, palms, soles of the feet, genitals and other parts of the body.

While we commend the proactive measures put in place by the Nigerian government to stem the spread of monkey pox virus, it is expedient to urge the NCDC and other relevant authorities not to rest on their oars at ensuring that Nigeria exits the ignominious leadership of monkey pox cases in Africa. Our enviable status as the giant of Africa must be protected.

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