The world's curiosity about what Monkeypox is has been raised since the virus has made its way to the Western media. Yet for Africa, this virus is not a new fight. Scientists and medical doctors in Africa are now being looked at for advice on how to contain and treat the most recent outbreaks. Today, we will review the facts of what Africa can teach us about Monkeypox.
For the most part, Monkeypox has been contained inside the continent of Africa. The Congo Basin Strain, discovered around five decades ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the predominant strain found in Africa. This specific strain is 10 times more lethal than the strain we are now seeing spread globally, but has never left Africa or caused a serious outbreak in a Congolese city. The strain we are seeing spread is known as the West African strain, which is only considered to have a 1% fatality rate. Yet, The World Health Organization has not stated the official origin of the outbreak. Furthermore, WHO suspects that the outbreaks could be linked to raves in Spain and Belgium.
Monkeypox usually spreads by close contact with an infected person, including sexual acticity. Transmission can occur through indirect contact as well, such as touched surfaces or respiratory droplets. High infectious rates tend to be seen in remote forested areas, places where people may encounter wildlife.
Multiple labs across Africa have been researching Monkeypox, aiming to discover new ways of diagnosing the virus. Labs in Goma and Nigeria can now diagnose by using genomic DNA samples to detect the virus, this is known as a PCR assay. The end goal of these labs is to develop rapid tests for use in clinics nationwide.
The symptoms of Monkeypox resembles the virus Smallpox. Infected individuals should expect headaches, discomfort, fevers, and rashes. The rashes usually begin on the face and may spread throughout the body. For the most part, the virus causes mild illness and blisters that clear up with time. For those who are at higher risk (young children, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems), symptoms can be more severe and lead to long term effects.
Before the current outbreak, African countries have been successful and continue to improve how they handle local outbreaks of the virus. They have found that isolating infected people typically helps end outbreaks. Another tactic in handling outbreaks that African countries have found is to step up surveillance, this helps track the virus and prevents further outbreaks.
When it comes to what you can do, general precautions are recommended; for example, washing your hands, avoiding large gatherings, and social distancing. In addition to general precautions, avoid skin to skin contact with people who may have been exposed. Likewise, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if one suspects they have been infected. Lastly, Africa emphasizes the role of the community throughout all of this; We must be actively engaged to increase awareness so we can avoid further outbreaks.
No one has forgotten the lockdowns caused by COVID-19, and no one wants to go through them again. It is reasonable to be fearful when we are starting to see familiar headlines read, New Virus Outbreaks Across The Globe. Africa assures us there is no need to worry, that this outbreak is containable. We must remember that when all eyes are focused on a new virus, it is reasonable to expect more cases to show up. Adesola Yinka-Ogunleye, a Nigeria Center for Disease Control Monkeypox Expert group member, tells us that we must “walk together across regions” in order to dissolve the outbreaks of Monkeypox.
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