MONKEYPOX VIRUS: WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW
Ochonye, Bartholomew Boniface
The Nigeria monkeypox situation is increasing by the day.
A report by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC)’s data published on 7th August 2022 shows that in 2022 alone there have been over 473 suspected Monkeypox cases and 407 of these were in the last four months (May to August 2022). Out of a total of 172 confirmed cases during the period, 151 were from May to August.
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms like those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. With the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the subsequent cessation of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox has emerged as the most important orthodox virus for public health.
Monkeypox has received greater attention this year from The WHO, government, civil society organizations, development partners, and the UN system to spotlight the need for increased awareness and response to the increasing number of suspected and confirmed Monkeypox cases in the country.
There is a need for more engagement at the grassroots level.
Some NGOs in Nigeria have had staff who suffered from monkeypox infection and received medical attention. Heartland Alliance Nigeria has a monkeypox policy approved by the Board of Directors that detail what all employees need to know, measures on how to protect themselves, and basic response strategies. This will be updated as new knowledge emerges on the virus. The government of Nigeria has a national multisectoral Emergency Operations Centre for Monkeypox to monitor the disease, Heartland Alliance will work closely with relevant bodies for support.
Challenges and recommendations for the Heartland Alliance Nigeria program
- Inadequate awareness about monkeypox in the face of ongoing COVID-19 challenges, HIV/AIDS, and TB infection has underscored the need for an integrated approach to addressing monkeypox within existing programs for efficiency.
- Lack of access to the monkeypox vaccine in the country has exacerbated the fear in the minds of healthcare workers and relatives of close partners and family members of infected persons.
- Increasing stigma and concerns associated with monkeypox being common among gay men and other Men who have Sex with Men. This kind of communication needs to be managed to ensure unhindered access to medical care for all infected persons irrespective of their gender, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
- There is a need for training of healthcare workers and social workers at the community level, especially those working with transgender persons, gay men, other MSM, PWID, Sex Workers, and other key populations on how to identify signs and symptoms and know what to do.