Uganda will not be affected by monkeypox according to officials from the Ministry of Health.
Monkeypox is a viral disease caused by the orthopoxvirus. It is a zoonotic disease spread from animals to human beings. The disease belongs to the same family as the eradicated smallpox disease.
The disease is common in wild animals like primates but can infect humans through contact. Monkeypox is endemic in four African countries including neighbouring DRC, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
While cases of the disease are now being reported in other parts of the world, health officials are confident the disease will not become an issue in Uganda.
Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the commissioner in charge of public health at the ministry of health says Uganda has immunity to the disease. He says with the free entry and exit of Congolese nations in the country, it is possible that Ugandans already have immunity to the disease.
According to reports from the World Health Organisation, over 200 cases of the disease have been reported from more than 80 countries. The majority of the cases have been reported from communities where men have sex with fellow men. Many of the victims are men aged 20-50 years of age.
The incubation period for monkeypox ranges from 5 to 21 days. The disease manifests itself through fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director-general of health services at the ministry of health says there’s no need for panic.
According to Dr Mwebesa, monkeypox has been in the East African region for years and as such is not a new disease.
“Monkeypox is endemic in DRC and in all that time, it has never been a cause of worry for Uganda, our people should not panic, there’s no cause for worry,” Dr Mwebesa said.
The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of an infected person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels, but usually clears up after two to four weeks, according to health officials.
Records from WHO show that the number of cases reported annually for the disease have been on the rise for the last three years. In 2018 2850 cases of the disease were reported compared to 3,794 cases in 2019.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, over 4,594 cases of the disease were reported. That year 171 deaths were recorded compared to 73 deaths in the previous year.
From the beginning of 2022 to date, the disease is believed to have claimed the lives of at least 58 people and infected 1,200 in the DRC. In Nigeria, 21 cases and one death have been reported to date.
Despite this rise in cases in DRC and the alarm that the WHO has raised in regard to the disease, Dr Kyabayinze cautions the public to adhere to public health measures. According to Kyabayinze, being cautious will help ensure that the country doesn’t report any cases.
“We have never had monkeypox problem but if we do, the COVID-19 public health preventive measures are enough. Avoiding crowded places where you can come into contact with infected people is one of the measures that cuts across,” he said.
With the disease now spreading to areas where it’s not endemic like the U.S, U.K, and Ireland, some global scientists want the UN health agency to consider the disease as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, as was the case for COVID-19 and Ebola.
However officials from the WHO say that the disease is not a new one and there already exist medicines and vaccines to handle it.
According to WHO, infected persons or people at high risk of getting the disease can be vaccinated against it using the smallpox vaccine.
The vaccine is believed to have an 85 percent efficacy rate in protecting against the disease.