WHO declares Monkeypox health emergency concern

WHO declares Monkeypox health emergency concern
The national ministry of health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday conducted a training programme for responding to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Morobo and Yei River counties in Central Equatoria State. [File Photo]

The World Health Organisation has declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of an International Concern (PHEIC).

Since early May 2022, more than 16,000 suspected cases of monkeypox have been identified in 75 countries.

The World Health Organization defines Monkepox as a viral zoonotic disease with symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, headaches, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. It is, however, clinically less severe.

The WHO says with the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the subsequent cessation of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox has emerged as the most important orthopox virus for public health. Monkeypox primarily occurs in Central and West Africa—often in proximity to tropical rainforests—and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. Animal hosts include a range of rodents and non-human primates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Incident Manager in South Sudan, Sacha Bootsma, explained that currently there are endemic countries in Africa when it comes to monkeypox. They include Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and DRC.

“We are seeing an increase in a number of cases in endemic countries and we are seeing a very large number of cases coming from countries that have never before had any monkeypox cases, so these are the two situations that we are currently facing, a drastic increase in the past since 1990 and a drastic increase in these endemic countries,” she stated.

Bootsma stated that South Sudan had reported several suspected cases and the samples of these cases were all sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute for testing and that they had all come back negative.

“We currently have the capacity to test here in Juba at the National Public Health Laboratory for monkeypox of the next suspected monkeypox right here in South Sudan, so that is really great news.’’

 Dr John Rumunu, Director General for Preventive Health Services at the Ministry of Health, said that together with other health partners in the country through the epidemic preparedness and response even before the declaration of the spread of the monkeypox as public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), they had already set up surveillance.

“Through that, we managed to identify cases that are having symptoms less like that of monkey pox and we collected samples and they were sent to regional collaborating labs of about 5 samples and all the results were negative,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and WHO are now creating messages for the healthcare workers and messages for a hotline for those who want to know more information about monkeypox and how they would want to know how the disease is transmitted.   

The majority of cases in the current outbreak have been resolved without the need for hospitalisation or medication. There have been three deaths as of July 7, all in Africa. However, according to Lancet.com, the continent has registered 1,400 confirmed or suspected cases with 66 deaths.

Monkeypox is frequently transmitted within households through close contact and possibly shared items such as utensils and linens. Isolated reports of monkeypox infections in children, who are thought to be at higher risk of severe outcomes, have emerged in recent weeks, reinforcing the concern that without containment, outbreaks frequently spread beyond the populations where they begin.