The monkeypox crisis is secretly revolving around this viral hotspot – The Daily Beast

AKAMKPA, Nigeria — Two sons of Destiny, a 48-year-old Nigerian businessman whose nephew recently won a contract monkeypox virusthey already show similar symptoms.

They have swollen lymph nodes, which started a few days after they got a fever. Despite a rash on their bodies that turns into purulent pimples that have covered themselves, Destiny believes his sons only feel the effect of the heat wave that has gripped the southeastern Nigerian state of Cross River, where they live. He prevented his sons – both in their early twenties – from visiting the hospital, believing the rash would “disappear after a while”.

“In less than a week, everything will be gone,” Destiny told the Daily Beast right in front of his home in the town of Akamkpa in the southern Cross River region. “We started applying calamine lotion [a medication commonly used to treat mild itchiness] on it and we will see the results soon. ”

Smallpox, a viral zoonosis caused by a virus that is transmitted from animals to humans, was first discovered among monkeys kept for research in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1958, and later in humans in the same country in 1970. The disease is currently endemic in rodent and monkey populations in West and Central Africa, including in Nigeria, where the number of cases increases and causes flu-like symptoms and rashes in infected people. Recently, the virus has appeared in Europe and the US, raising the alarm that the disease could soon escalate into a pandemic.

Few in Destiny’s complex seem to believe the disease really exists. As was the case with some Conspiracy theorists about COVID-19, many believe it is another “so-called” disease devised by the West for the purpose of introducing vaccines that will reduce the population in Africa. It is a belief that already hinders coronavirus vaccination in Nigeria, with only close to 17 million in a country of 200 million people fully vaccinated.

“America has resumed another conversation about the outbreak of a contagious disease,” one of Destiny’s neighbors muttered as he heard Destiny speak for The Daily Beast. “They [Americans] saw that the Africans did not accept their COVID scam so they introduced this one [monkeypox] scare people. ”

But as many very close to Destiny live in denial, the signs that the disease lives very close to them are obvious. The woman who got a rash and swollen lymph nodes on her body was blamed for the “spiritual attack” of her enemies, according to her younger sister, and had to run to the home of a traditional medicine practitioner about 200km (120 miles) away for treatment. Since then, no one, her brother said, has seen or heard her. Another 80-year-old man who died a week ago had symptoms of monkeypox but did not seek medical attention.

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“Many people fear that if they come to hospitals and are diagnosed with the disease, they could be separated from their families and quarantined for a long time,” said Dr. Collins Anyachi of the Department of Family Medicine at the University Teaching Hospital (UCTH) in Calabar. the city of Cross River State, he told the Daily Beast. “They would rather support patent traders or traditional medicine practitioners who would prescribe only medicines or herbs and tell them they would recover in a few days.”

Cases like those in Akamkpi show that Nigeria almost certainly fails to document many cases of monkeypox, especially in rural areas, where surveillance has been very poor.

Unlike in the West, the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria, where the disease is endemic, has not started this year. It started in 2017. Between then and nowthere were more than 650 suspicious cases with over 260 confirmed, of which one-seventh was recorded in the first half of this year.

But government records in Nigeria, where monkeypox sufferers are on the rise, do not tell the true story of a disease that has risen sharply in Europe and the United States.

Officially, Nigeria has announced 141 suspicious cases and 36 confirmed cases from 12 states between 1 January and 12 June. But as seen in Cross River State, where official records have confirmed only two cases, many who are likely to have the disease refuse to seek medical attention.

“There is also a fear of stigmatization,” Anyachi said. “When people are officially diagnosed with monkeypox, there is a tendency for society to treat them with contempt. We have seen that this often happens to people who have suffered from leprosy. ”

But in addition to people’s reluctance to visit hospitals, authorities had trouble tracking monkeypox outbreaks. For starters, disease surveillance in Nigeria is generally hampered by the outbreak of COVID-19. In the case of Lassa fever, for example, there were some almost 1,200 confirmed cases recorded in 2020 when a new coronavirus appeared. That number dropped to 510 in 2021, as overburdened health authorities paid more attention to the more contagious COVID-19. However, since COVID is no longer dominant, the number of Lassa fever infections was confirmed only in the first quarter of 2022. rose to 751. Like Lassa fever, monkeypox was not given proper attention in 2021, meaning many infections went unnoticed.

To make matters worse, countries like the US and the UK offer a vaccine produced by the Bavarian Nordic – a vaccine approved for monkeypox by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019 – through high-risk contacts, Nigeria could not procure vaccines or drugs to prevent and the treatment of monkeypox, a virus says the World Health Organization (WHO). is “transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding.”

We can’t start spending that much money at this stage [in a hospital] when not life-threatening.

In a country where there are them only 40,000 doctors for 200 million people there is a real concern that if cases of monkeypox spread in poor rural areas, where there is overcrowding and poor sanitation, the health sector in Nigeria will not be able to bear it.

“The biggest fear is the possibility of misdiagnosis in primary care facilities, which is available to people in rural communities,” Dr. Elijah Akpe Orim, who has worked in community health in Cross River State for years, told the Daily. Beast. “The people you often find in these health centers are community workers who are not professionally trained to deal with such cases.”

Because of the similarity in symptoms, according to Dr. Orim, who now works in the pharmacology department at UCTH, “patients who may suffer from monkeypox may be mistaken for being infected with a measles-like illness and that it doesn’t help in any way.”

As for Destiny, he says that he will be treated in the hospital only when his sons’ diseases “get out of control”.

“We can’t start spending that much money at this stage [in a hospital] when it’s not life-threatening, ”Destiny said. “It’s too early to waste money.”

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