When you take your time to listen to the comments, reactions and outbursts of people about a very human defining disease, you may like to joke about it, or perhaps think about it, or better still react with an outburst; 'oh, not again', or you may exclaim; ‘Na wa O!’.Now I know you will be wondering; what is this writer talking about? He has not said anything yet, well I haven’t said anything yet because I’m trying to talk about a very crucial topic that a lot of people,Nigerians in particular, are beginning to joke about. On a lighter note,the honest truth is that it could be funny talking about it, especially when you meet some humourous friends who know how to turn a serious topic of discussion into something playful, take for instance someone posting a message on a social media platform that goes thus:
Chicken pox, Bird flu, Lassa fever, Python dance, Crocodile smile and now, Monkey pox, please who offended the gods of the animal kingdom?
It may sound funny to some people but it is a joke that should be taken to heart. Believe me or not, except you know the human defining disease I am referring to is something that could make you look like Job, if you could only imagine, perhaps may be you will not even think of laughing at the joke made out of it. If by now you can't still grasp the disease I’mtalking about, start reading all over. It's time for us to stop joking about this disease. Come to think of it, who named it Monkey Pox? Well, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus was first identified in the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1958 during an investigation into a pox-like disease among monkeys. Hence the reason why it is called monkey pox, well, I didn't know that before, guess now I know. I think at this point, I should be accused of joking about the virus, whoops! And I have been calling it a disease; forgive me reader, if I have sinned.
However, the first human outbreak of this deadly virus could be traced to Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1970. This virus was said to have been identified in a 9 year old boy in a region where smallpox (another deadly virus) had earlier been eliminated in 1968. This virus is so endemic that between the periods of 1996 to 1997, a major outbreak occurred in the rural and rain forest regions of Congo and West Africa which claimed the life of some West Africans living in Congo. Why? You may want to ask.
Similarly, in the spring of 2003, monkey pox cases were confirmed in the Midwest of the United States of America, marking the first reported occurrence of the disease outside of the African continent. Most of the patients had had close contact with pet prairie dogs.Later, in 2005, another outbreak occurred in Unity, Sudan and sporadic cases have been reported from other parts of Africa. In 2009, an outreach campaign among refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo into the Republic of Congo identified and confirmed two cases of monkey pox. Between August and October 2016, amonkey pox outbreak in the Central African Republic was contained with 26 cases and 2deaths.
Now permit me to say, enough of the outbreaks in Congo. Open your eyes to the reality on ground, Monkey Pox is in Nigeria…again. Yes! And when I say again, I mean, earlier, in 1971, 2 cases were recorded and in 1978 another case was recorded in Nigeriawith a total number of three cases. This is according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). Just recently in 2017, another outbreak occurred which spread to seven states in the federation. The states affected are Bayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Ogun, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Lagos state. This is no longer a joke because, what will only make a man joke about such an issue is his master's degree of ignorance. Which brings us to themajor question, what is monkey pox? beyond the name coined for it.
Monkey pox is not just a virus carried by monkeys as the name implies. It is also carried in the body of some wild animals which are commonly referred to as 'bush meat' or 'grass cutters' or 'Okete'. Some of the animals that scientific research has proven to be carriers of the virus include squirrels, our giant bush rats and rabbits.Nevertheless, CDC has confirmed that the reservoir of monkey pox remains unknown and African rodent species are said to be the major carriers of the virus.
Moreover, the virus can easily be transmitted to humans that come in contact with any of these infected animals as well as human to human contact. Coming in contact means either having to touch the blood or secretions of the infected animals. The virus causes a very fatal illness in humans which usually begins with symptoms ranging from fever to intense headaches to swollen lymph node, back pain, muscle aches and sudden weakness. These early symptoms usually occur between 0-5 days before the rashes begin to appear often beginning from the face and then spreading to the various parts of the human body. The symptoms of monkey pox are self-limited lasting from a period of 14 to 21 days. In addition, WHO has revealed that severe cases commonly occur among children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, patient health status and severity of complications. Do you still think this is a joke?
While you ponder, allow me to burst your bubble to say that there is no cure. Wait! Did I just say there is no cure? I’m sorry, there are actually vaccines that have been proven to be 85% effective in preventing the monkey pox virus, but surprisingly these vaccines are actually meant for treating small pox which is more severe than monkey pox virus, hence medical specialist and health authorities commonly refer to monkey pox as milder when compared to the severity and complications of the small pox virus. But that doesn’t mean that it should be taken for granted or treated as mild. You might be asking, who treated it as mild? Well, don’t ask me, just keep asking. What is so vexatious and shameful is the fact that a country like Nigeria, that was once tagged to be the Almighty Giant of Africa, has to send down samples of the suspected cases of the monkey pox virus abroad for testing. When I say abroad, I know you may be thinking Europe, oh! How I wish it was even Europe but shockingly, it was sent to Senegal, another African country like Nigeria. Why? Because we lack the proper equipment to test the samples. What a shame! But who is to blame?
As you are blaming who/whatever relax and take note, it is only you and I that can help protect one another, our families, friends and loved ones from this mild virus. And how do we do that? It's simple; just live a healthy life by maintaining a proper medical hygiene free from rats, rodents and other bush animals like…What this means is that for the period of this mild virus, wash your hands regularly with soap and water. You could also make use of hand sanitizers. Try also to properly cook any blooded meat to prevent any infection. In addition, also educate everyone around you, particularly children because their immune systems are very prone to the monkey pox virus. Lastly, just quit eating bush meat. Honestly, at least just for this period. Wait a minute, who said Monkey Pox is a joke?
By Daniel Katchy