Dakar, Senegal – In a part of Nigeria that has been battling an outbreak of monkeypox for years, a doctor saw the photos being published in the Western media this week and smiled.
What bothers infectious-disease experts across the continent is the double standard that has arisen since the monkeypox attracted the world’s attention: very few people in the West care or even notice until people start to get sick.
In the past two weeks, cases of animal-borne viruses, typically in West and Central Africa, have been reported in the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, and a growing number of countries in Europe. There have been at least 92 confirmed infections and no deaths. Belgium has imposed a 21-day quarantine. President Biden has assured Americans that the United States has sufficient vaccine stockpiles to deal with the threat.
However, global alarm bells have not rung in recent months as several African countries have fought the outbreak. Graphic images flashing across social media – The same images used to portray monkeypox since the 1970s rarely feature white patients.
“These cases have been recorded in Europe,” he said. “Why are you using pictures of an African? These are your pox. “
The World Health Organization has not yet confirmed the source of the outbreak, although a WHO adviser told the Associated Press that the cases could be linked to the Spanish and Belgian revolutions. Monkeypox is usually spread through close contact with sexual activity.
Health officials suspect the virus has not been detected in nondemic countries for some time – possibly until 2018. Preliminary tests suggest presenting cases from the West African strain, which the WHO says has a mortality rate of about 1 percent.
Before the monkeypox hit the West this year, the WHO said Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic all recorded smaller cases. However, the search for contact is limited, says Cameronian epidemiologist Yap Baum. Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated in the wild, where humans are exposed to wildlife that carries monkeypox, such as primates and rats.
“Maybe now that it’s happening there, the problem will get more attention,” Baum said, “and we’ll have access to more vaccines, more treatments – things that we didn’t have money for.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is battling the world’s largest outbreak so far: at least 1,238 cases and 57 deaths since January. The strain found there is also much more deadly, with a mortality rate of up to 10 percent. Many deaths are preventable, doctors say, but it can be difficult to get treatment in less meaningless hospital areas.
“It could be just as devastating as the Covid-19,” said Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani. But the country’s monkeypox preparations lost steam during the epidemic. The nation needs more testing, more inoculation, more medical personnel case tracing and more patient care.
“The response is not effective,” Mbungani said, “and remains lazy due to lack of resources.”
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday that most of the cases registered have been mild. Younger children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk.
Christian Happy, one of Nigeria’s leading genomic sequencing experts, is inviting his counterparts to study how his country manages monkeypox.
“It’s not so scary here,” he said. “People are used to it. Learn from our public health authorities. Let’s see how we handle it. “
He said global stimulus to fight the virus should have come soon. Maybe it could have been eradicated by now.
“Everyone benefits from paying attention wherever the disease occurs,” he said. “As the epidemic has shown us, we are all in it together.”
Ombour reports from Nairobi.