Home Featured Monkeypox a threat that can be contained if we act fast

Monkeypox a threat that can be contained if we act fast

by Luqmaan Rawat

To note with monkeypox are rash, fever and swollen lymph nodes Photo Adobe Stock

Johannesburg – A new disease is spreading across the globe, but it is a familiar one called Monkeypox. Although a rare disease, there have been more than 1000 cases reported globally. There is a fear that it could take the place of Covid-19.

Monkeypox has been around for quite some time. It was first discovered in 1958 among laboratory monkeys in Copenhagen, Denmark. The first human reported case was discovered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a disease endemic to Central and West African countries. Contrary to the name, the disease comes from rodents. It belongs to the same family as smallpox.

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Should we be concerned?

This is the first time that such an outbreak has been recorded in multiple countries. There has been an outbreak outside of Africa before, in 2003, that was isolated to the US. Professor Adrian Puren, Executive Director of National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), says there is some concern to be had due to how fast the virus has spread.

“As far as we are aware, the nature and spread of this virus is very different to Covid-19 in that it has a fairly lengthy incubation period. It is not as easily transmissible. It does require person-to-person contact for transmission to occur … South Africa is quite central to many of these countries that have reported cases, so importation is a possibility. We then need to make sure we have the necessary information about this disease and how to manage it.”

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Getting vaccinated could be challenging

Monkeypox can be fatally dangerous to those who have compromised immune systems and those who are pregnant. Canada has started vaccinating their population so while there is a vaccine available one should not hold their breath for it, said Puren.

“The ability for us to vaccinate is going to be a challenge. I think primarily because access to the vaccine is going to be problematic for us. It is not readily available, and it will be in short supply. We really need to have a risk-based approach if we are to even access vaccines.”

At the same time, Puren is confident that we do not need vaccines right now. What is needed is to quickly identify where the outbreak is and contain it.

“We don’t really readily require the vaccines. What we readily require is the ability to identify these cases. We do have the laboratory method available for confirmation that it is Monkeypox. I think after that it is very important, we identify where these outbreaks are. If they are in South Africa to make sure they can be traced and isolate individuals. That will be key in trying to limit the spread of the virus.”

Currently there are no reported cases of Monkeypox in South Africa, but it is spreading very rapidly throughout Europe and the United States. Even though Covid-19 cases are slowly dwindling, Puren urged those to take their vaccines and their booster shots. With the threat of Monkeypox on the horizon, it is now important as ever to keep our immune systems strong.

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