It is no more news that there is a global outbreak of Monkey Pox. So far, at least 300 monkeypox cases have been recorded in 12 countries across Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia since the World Health Organization (WHO) started receiving reports of infections on May 13. The situation continues to evolve rapidly.
Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus with a clinical presentation like that of small pox. It was initially identified in monkeys in 1958 and the first outbreak in humans occurred in the 1970s. Monkeypox is endemic in several Central and West African countries. There are two classes of Monkeypox virus: West African and Congo Basin with the latter causing more severe illness. Cases in persons outside Africa are often linked to international travel or imported animals. Since monkeypox re-emerged in Nigeria in 2017, isolated cases outside Africa have been reported either among persons with recent travel to Nigeria or among secondary contacts of persons with travel-associated cases.
However, it is not all gloom and doom as there has not been any mortality so far. Treatment is largely supportive and most patients heal with little or no complications.
I have been following news of the Monkeypox outbreak and the global response so far, but this week, as I watched the APC presidential primaries, the similarities between the two utterly different issues, dawned on me.
What does monkey pox outbreak have in common with our country’s selection process of the ruling party’s presidential flag bearer?
A lot. I dare say they have a lot in common. Stay with me.
The first similarity is their poor organisational structure. I suppose it is a good thing that the PDP primaries preceded that of APC, so that we could have a half-decent yardstick with which to compare. At the PDP primaries, all aspirants were given a chance to contest (even if it was eye service) and the ‘stepping down’ did not start till well towards the end. Also, the programme was well organised with the ballot papers containing pictures of the aspirants for easy recognition. In stark contrast, the APC primaries was marred by poor timing (African time), cumbersome speeches, poor organisation and a ballot form that exposed the illiterate population among the delegates. APC had years to prepare for this moment, yet they stalled and focused instead on producing a ‘consensus candidate’. It is almost as if they did not want the primaries to hold.
In the same vein, Nigeria is repeating the same mistake in our preparedness of the monkeypox outbreak. In Nigeria we probably don’t know how much of the disease we have, because surveillance is not what it should be. We are definitely missing many of the monkeypox cases in the rural areas. From September 2017 to the end of April 2022, Nigeria reported a total of 558 suspected cases with 231 (41.4%) confirmed. This year, from January 1st to April 30th, we have reported 46 suspected cases and confirmed 15 from 7 states. No death has been recorded this year. As usual, we are nonchalant about the situation, until we have a full-blown public health emergency on our hands, then we will start panicking and looking for ‘consensus’ or a way out.
The second similarity is of course what we have known all along- That money is what makes the world go round. Not brilliance, not integrity, not aggressiveness and definitely not intellect. Money kawai. This was evident at the dollar rain during both PDP and APC primaries. A little bird whispered to me that even in the smaller parties like ADC, Moghalu lost the ticket because delegates were given $100 as bribe.
It has been confirmed that Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Health agency was funding research to identify treatments for monkeypox shortly before the virus began spreading in a global outbreak. A ten-million-dollar grant was awarded to support a “randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the safety and efficacy of tecovirimat for the treatment of patients with monkeypox virus disease.” So far, the treatment has shown great promise and the vaccines are being used successfully.
See what I mean? When money is thrown at a problem, instant results emerge.
In Infectious Diseases, we talk about ‘Mode of transmission’. This term describes how infections are transmitted from one person to another. Although, monkey pox was originally a zoonotic disease (i.e transmitted from animals to humans), it is now been transmitted from humans to humans via human fluids. Several of the cases confirmed in the 2022 outbreak are men who have sex with men (MSM), raising the issue that Monkeypox is now a sexual transmitted illness.
The mode of transmission in the just concluded primary election are no doubt, the delegates. Isn’t it appalling, though, that these group of individuals who have no tangible credentials apart from being card holding members of the party and being favoured by political god-fathers are the vehicles of transmission of the disease called presidency? When the mode of transmission is poor, how then can the outcome be good?
The last similarity is the blatant manipulation by western media.
When Bola Ahmed Tinubu was announced the winner, Al-Jazeera’s headline read ‘The 70-year-old will slug it out against the opposition’s 75-year-old candidate to succeed 79-year-old President Buhari.’ Incredulous laughter burst out of me and I had to take a minute to process what they were implying. Jama’a, how old is Biden? 79! How old is his Predecessor Trump? 75 years old! Why is it suddenly made to look like it is only Nigeria that is ruled by the geriatric age group?
Like I mentioned earlier, most of the cases established in this current outbreak of monkeypox have occurred in Europe, US, Canada and Australia, yet, in the news media, the face of the outbreak is decidedly Black and African. From BBC to Sky News and ABC News, international outlets are using images of Black people to illustrate their stories and tweets about the spread of monkeypox. Heaven forbid that Caucasians be associated with an infectious disease; that pool has been designated for poverty stricken Black Africans only. Fortunately, African journalists and media watchers haven’t taken kindly to the trend and have since released a statement condemning the perpetuation of negative stereotypes that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege and immunity to other races.
The APC presidential primaries is over, Alhamdulillah, but Monkeypox is not. The disease, though not fatal, has a mortality rate of 1.0 to 10.6% in Africa among immunocompromised individuals. It is time to buckle our belt through heightened surveillance and efficient response system. Those COVID isolation centres that have since been abandoned should be revived in anticipation of receiving patients. Monkeypox is real and there is an outbreak.