Uganda on high alert as monkeypox spreads

A person infected with monkeypox. Dozens of cases of the rare disease have been detected in many parts of the world. PHOTO/HANDOUT

What you need to know:

  • The government is getting more information on transmission and preparing a response in the event a case is detected.
     

The government has said its scientists are on high alert to prevent any eventuality as monkeypox, an infectious and potentially fatal disease, spreads to 12 countries.

The disease, which spreads through close contact with the infected person, often manifests with acute skin rash, headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Other symptoms are muscle and body aches, back pain and profound weakness. The skin rash can look similar to that caused by chickenpox or syphilis but the distinguishing feature is fluid-filled blisters on the palms of the hands, according to experts.

Dr Allan Muruta, the commissioner for epidemiology and surveillance at the Ministry of Health, told Daily Monitor yesterday that they are prepared to prevent and manage monkeypox.

“Uganda is at risk because people are always travelling. Currently, we are on alert, we are observing as we get more information about how it is being transmitted. Then there is also [preparation for] response [if a case is detected],” he said.

Dr Muruta said Uganda has not yet detected any case of monkeypox even in the past.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement yesterday that since May 13, 98 cases of monkeypox have been reported to the organisation from 12 member states that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions.

“Endemic monkeypox disease is normally geographically limited to West and Central Africa. The identification of confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox without any travel history to an endemic area in multiple countries is atypical, hence, there is an urgent need to raise awareness about monkeypox and undertake comprehensive case finding and isolation (provided with supportive care), contact tracing and supportive care to limit further onward transmission,” the statement reads.

Dr Muruta said monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
“It is transmitted through body fluids and droplets from infected people. In the current outbreak, they suspect that it could be sexually transmitted. But it is a well-known virus. It has been around [in neighbouring countries] and it doesn’t cause much of a scare, it can be managed,” he added.

The WHO, however, said cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified among men who have sex with men seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.

“The situation is evolving and WHO expects there will be more cases of monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries. Those who are most at risk are those who have had close physical contact with someone with monkeypox, while they are symptomatic,” the global health agency warned in the statement.

“Eating inadequately cooked meat and other animal products of infected animals is a possible risk factor. Monkeypox is usually self-limiting but may be severe in some individuals, such as children, pregnant women or persons with immune suppression due to other health conditions,” the WHO added.

Human infections with the West African clade appear to cause less severe disease compared to the Congo Basin one, with a case fatality rate of 3.6 percent compared to 10.6 percent for the Congo Basin, according to the WHO. 

In contrast, the Covid-19 fatality rate is globally estimated at around 1.4 percent but the rates are even lower in some countries, especially in Africa. The fatality rate is the number of infected people who die.

Endemic countries 

Monkeypox endemic countries include Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the DR Congo, Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan, according to the WHO. The current outbreak has been reported in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.