Monkey Pox virus hits Cameroon, Minister Mama Fouda reacts

Cameroon’s public health minister, André Mama Fouda, has reported an outbreak of monkey pox in the English-speaking regions of North West and South-West Cameroon. An official press release called for vigilance in the areas affected, as the country’s epidemiological surveillance system has recorded, since late April, cases of human contamination by monkey pox.

It added that preliminary investigations carried out confirmed the existence of the virus, and gave rise to strong suspicions of its circulation in the neighbouring areas.

A more indepth investigation is now underway to assess the extent of the epidemic in order to put in place appropriate control and response measures, Fouda said, and asked the population to observe strict hygiene rules, and to avoid contact with sick animals or consuming bush meat.

Populations in affected areas are also encouraged to collaborate with health teams, “and to take anyone with fever and rash to the nearest health facility.

Monkey pox is a highly contagious viral disease, transmitted to humans by primates and rodents or another infected person.

There are measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkey pox virus:

Avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where the disease occurs), avoid contact with any material, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal and solate infected patients from others who could be at risk of infection, practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, also use personal protective equipment when caring for patients.

The recent apparent increase in human monkey pox cases across a wide geographic area, the potential for further spread, and the lack of reliable surveillance have raised the level of concern for this emerging zoonosis. In November 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with CDC, hosted an informal consultation on monkey pox with researchers, global health partners, ministries of health, and orthopox virus experts to review and discuss human monkey pox in African countries where cases have been recently detected and also identify components of surveillance and response that need improvement. Endemic human monkey pox has been reported from more countries in the past decade than during the previous 40 years. Since 2016, confirmed cases of monkey pox have occurred in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone and in captive chimpanzees in Cameroon. Many countries with endemic monkey pox lack recent experience and specific knowledge about the disease to detect cases, treat patients, and prevent further spread of the virus. Specific improvements in surveillance capacity, laboratory diagnostics, and infection control measures are needed to launch an efficient response. Further, gaps in knowledge about the epidemiology and ecology of the virus need to be addressed to design, recommend, and implement needed prevention and control measures.

Emmanuel Ngota

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