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Staying Safe from Monkeypox in Ghana – By Prof. SF Gyasi 

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What is Monkeypox? Monkeypox is a viral infection caused by the monkeypox virus. This viral infection is zoonotic in origin, meaning, it can spread from animals (who normally harbour these viruses without showing any clinical symptoms) to humans. It can also spread from humans to other humans and from the environment to humans. Monkeypox does not naturally occur in Ghana. Most cases are reported in West and Central Africa, primarily in the DRC, Nigeria and Cameroon. This infection is usually among individuals who report contact with wild primates or other mammals which may harbour the disease. The last confirmed monkeypox outbreak in Ghana was reported in 2003.

In recent times, cases of monkeypox have emerged in Ghana. As of July 24, 2022, the Ghana Health Service has identified 34 confirmed monkeypox cases in 6 different regions. Over the same period, officials also identified 159 suspected cases. Most cases have been reported from the Greater Accra region, with cases also reported from Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, East, and Upper West. As disease surveillance and contact tracing continue, officials may identify additional cases in the coming weeks. 

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Symptoms of Monkeypox: Monkey pox has an incubation period of between 5 and 21 days. The most common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, back pain, low energy and swollen lymph nodes. This can also be accompanied by the development of a rash which may last for 2 to 3 weeks. The rash can affect the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, groin, genital and/or anal regions. It may also be found in the mouth, throat, anus or vagina, or on the eyes. Sores on the skin normally begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.

Those typically at higher risk include pregnant women, children and persons whose immune system has been compromised. Symptoms usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. However, people remain infectious until all of the sores have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath. 

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How are they spread? 

Person-to-person transmission: Monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash. Close contact can mean being face-to-face (such as talking, breathing or singing close to one another which can generate droplets or short-range aerosols); skin-to-skin (such as touching or vaginal/anal sex); mouth-to-mouth (such as kissing); or mouth-to-skin contact (such as oral sex or kissing the skin). 

Fomite transmission:  Environments can become contaminated with the monkeypox virus: for example, when an infectious person touches clothing, bedding, towels, objects, electronics and surfaces, anyone else who touches these items may become infected if they have any cuts or abrasions or if they accidentally touch their eyes, nose, mouth or other mucous membranes. 

Vertical transmission: The virus can also spread during pregnancy to the fetus, during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact, or from a parent with monkeypox to an infant or child during close contact. 

Since many species of animals are known to be susceptible to the monkeypox virus, there is the potential for spillback of the virus from humans to susceptible animal species in different settings, which could lead to the formation of novel animal reservoirs.

How can we protect ourselves from Monkeypox: 

(i) People who have confirmed or suspected monkeypox infection should avoid close physical contact with animals, including pets (such as cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils etc.) livestock and wildlife.

(ii) Practice basic health precautions, including frequent handwashing with soap and water, covering the nose and mouth when coughing, and avoiding obviously ill individuals. 

(iii) Avoid overcrowded areas, such as nightclubs, and consider using safe sexual practices, such as physical barriers (condoms), in countries reporting high monkeypox transmission. 

(iv) Cleaning your hands after touching objects that may be contaminated can help prevent this type of transmission. It may also be possible to become infected from breathing in skin flakes or virus from clothing, bedding or towels. 

Prof Samuel Fosu Gyasi

(Associate Professor of Microbiology & Global Health)

Dean, School of Sciences,

Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Applied Biology

University of Energy & Natural Resources-UENR

Sunyani-Ghana

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