WHO declares Monkeypox outbreak global Public Health Emergency of International Concern as Ghana records 44 cases

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Monkeypox (MPX) outbreak a global public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) at a time Ghana has recorded 34 cases of the disease.

Of the total number, more than 50 per cent of cases were in the Greater Accra region with the rest identified in the Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, Eastern and Upper West regions.

The declaration of MPX as PHEIC means that the disease constituted a health risk to other states through transnational spread hence required a coordinated international response to contain it.

At its second International Health Regulations (2005-IHR) emergency committee meeting, the WHO said over 16,500 cases resulting in 75 deaths from 75 countries have been recorded so far.

At least, 11 Africa Union (AU) member states accounted for approximately 12 per cent of all reported cases with the region having the highest fatality rate (CFR) globally.

According to Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), at a news conference on Sunday, said an orientation on MPX outbreak response measures and the WHO preliminary guidelines on case management were ongoing among district rapid response and case management teams.

He said in collaboration with the Veterinary Services Department, the GHS was conducting an assessment within the affected communities, comprising contact tracing, follow-ups and enhanced education in schools and communities on the disease.

The recent development on MPX comes at a time Ghana’s Public Health system was strained with several public health emergencies, including COVID-19 and the Marburg Virus.

The GHS noted that although the risk of widespread Monkeypox and Marburg disease existed, it did not pose a major threat as long as adherence to infection prevention and control strategies were followed through.

Health authorities said the health system was being strengthened to intensify surveillance activities for early detection and adequate containment of public health emergencies.

Meanwhile, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has welcomed the news of MPX as PHEIC and assured of moving to support preparedness and response efforts of AU countries to contain the disease.

The regional health body said it was communicating with global partners to secure adequate access to test kits and vaccines for member states as well as build needed human capacity to respond, manage and treat cases.

Since the beginning of 2022, a total of 2,031 cases (250 confirmed; 1,781 suspected) and 75 deaths (CFR: 3.7 per cent) of Monkeypox have been reported in Africa from nine endemic and two non-endemic AU member states.

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 12,457 cases of MPX have been reported in Africa with at least 365 deaths (CFR 2.9 per cent); 7,376 cases and 203 deaths (CFR 2.8 per cent); in 2020, 3,050 cases and 87 deaths (CFR 2.9 per cent) in 2021 and 2,031 MPX cases with 75 deaths (CFR 3.1 per cent), in 2022.

For the last three years (2020-2022), the MPX outbreak in Africa has continued to grow from one country to another, yet till date critical tools required in outbreak preparedness and response, including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, have not yet been made readily available to AU Member States.

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by the Monkeypox virus and spread from animals to humans by coming into contact with blood, body fluids and lesions of infected animals, or consuming poorly cooked animal product.

It can also spread from human to human through droplets from coughing, sneezing, contact with blood, body fluids and rash of infected individuals or contact with contaminated clothing of infected animals.

It can take from five to 21 days for one to show symptoms of Monkeypox and typical signs include; fever, headache, body ache, weakness, swelling of lymph nodes and rashes that look like pimples or blisters, which appears on the face, inside the mouth and other parts of the body.

Members of the public are advised to practice effective hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially after contact with any infected animals or humans.

Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus, including animals that are sick or found dead in areas where Monkeypox occurs.

Avoid contact with any potentially contaminated materials, such as clothes and bedding, with which anyone with Monkeypox may have been in contact with.

If deemed a close contact of a Monkeypox case, individuals should self-monitor for the development of symptoms up to 21 days from the last exposure to a case.

If infected, one is advised to follow recommended isolation protocols prescribed by their medical provider to minimise transmission to others, including pets and other animals.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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