By Louvier Kindo Tombe
Emmanuel had just returned from the Baka community of Elandjo’o in Yokadouma, Boumba and Ngoko Division of the East region of Cameroon when he noticed some rashes appearing in spots on his right arm.
“I was afraid that I had contracted monkey pox”, Emmanuel said.
His fear was provoked by the fact that another outbreak of monkey pox was recently confirmed in the country by health officials.
Monkey pox is a virus transmitted to humans from animals. It has symptoms similar to those of small pox.
The disease primarily affects people close to tropical rainforest in central and West Africa.
Elandjo’ois one of those rainforest localities that harbours a variety of forest animals.
“During my stay in the forest area, I actually came in contact with and even ate some fresh animals killed by Baka hunters”, Emmanuel told us buttressing his fear of haven picked the virus.
Emmanuel, the 22 year old journalist who was on a reporting mission in the East region did not hesitate to take immediate precautionary measures.
“I went for consultations and was lucky to be tested negative for monkey pox”, he said.
Going for medical checkup was just the right thing to do at that time according to medics. One of them, an epidemiologist, Dr. Aghogah, serving at a health facility in Douala, economic capital of Cameroon said, “if you think your symptoms might be related to monkey pox, or you have had close contact with someone who has these symptoms, notify your doctor immediately.”
Before the discovery of rashes, Emmanuel was actually ignorant of so many details about monkey pox.
Just like him, many are those who are still blank with information about monkey pox.
The Regional Delegate for Public Health in the South West region of Cameroon, Dr. Eko Eko, who recently announced cases of monkey pox in the region, only gave an overview of its symptoms and prevention.
“The symptoms of monkey pox may look scary at first sight but they can still be cured.”
“It is not something that should call for panic”, Dr. Eko Eko added.
“I have come to realise that it is important for us all to master various diseases especially zoonotic diseases because panic alone can cause more harm than good to us”, Emmanuel told News Upfront.
What I Know About Monkey Pox
Even though he came in contact with, and ate “bushmeat”, Emmanuel was to an extent confidenn because he did not eat monkey. To him, monkey pox could only come from a monkey.
After his research, Emmanuel was happy to tell us his understanding of Monkey pox, because to him, “information can save lives.”
“I have come to realise that the symptoms of monkey pox are similar to those of small pox, another zoonotic disease that severely affected humans in the past”, he said.
The symptoms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, and aching muscles.
Emmanuel had learned that the fever is usually followed by a rash which often begins on the face, “and not on the right arm of humans like in my case.”
The incubation period of monkey pox is usually from 6 to 13 days, but it can range from 5 to 21 days.
“When I learned about the incubation period, I had to go for another test in the hospital because I thought maybe I first went earlier”, Emmanuel told us smiling.
WHO reports that animals susceptible to the virus include rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates and other species.
The infection can enter the human body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, through the eyes, nose and mouth.
Emmanuel now knows that monkey pox can not only leave animals to humans but can also be transmitted from humans to humans. “That is from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects,” he noted.
The Monkey Pox Fight
Experts believe that monkey pox can be protected through limiting unprotected contact with wild animals, especially sick or dead animals, their meat, or blood. All food containing animal meat must be thoroughly cooked before eating.
Restrictions on animal trade in some countries has also proven to be effective in preventing the spread of the disease.
However, the fight against monkey pox globally is not taken seriously according to health experts.
“Monkey pox is another neglected tropical disease of the poor that gets attention only when it starts affecting people in wealthy countries”, says Yap Boum, epidemiologist in Cameroon who worked with Doctors Without Borders.
“It is as if your neighbor’s house is burning and you just close your window and say it’s fine”, he added.
The fire is now spreading and requires global attention.
Monkey Pox Treatment
The symptoms of monkey pox usually last for two to four weeks in humans and in some cases may go away on their own without treatment, but in most cases, medical attention is vital.
In a very short time, Emmanuel learned that “it is important to care for the rash by letting it dry if possible or cover it with a moist bandage if necessary to protect the area.”
Health experts who corroborates this point add that “patients should avoid touching any eye or mouth sore.”
Research indicates that for severe cases, an antiviral agent known as ‘tecovirimat‘ that was developed for small pox, was licenced by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)) for monkey pox in 2022, based on data in animal and human studies. It is not yet widely available though.
Another small pox vaccine, (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos) was developed in 2019 for use in preventing monkey pox, and is still not widely available.
In the meantime, Mouthwashes and eye drops can be used as long as products containing cartisons are avoided.
Monkey Pox in Figures
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) monkey pox was identified for the first time in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where small pox had been eradicated in 1968.
Since 1970, human cases of monkey pox have been reported in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Cote d’ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.
In 2003, there was a monkey pox outbreak in the United States of America (USA). It was the first time the disease was reported out of Africa.