Monkeypox in Liberia: How Dangerous Is It?

As per the WHO stats, there are now more than 16 thousand reported cases from 75 countries

Two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global public health emergency of international concern, health authorities in Liberia on Monday announced the outbreak of the virus in the country.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, July 25, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said the National Public Health Reference Laboratory on July 23, confirmed a positive case of Monkeypox from a sample collected from a man believed to be a traveler who entered Maryland County with the virus. 

The patient has been taken into isolation and is undergoing treatment, according to the Health Minister.

“Currently, NPHIL has heightened surveillance in Maryland and adjacent counties as well as at all ports of entry.  To complement current efforts from the health authorities, the public is advised of the following: Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus including animals that are sick or that have been found dead, and report any skin disease or strange illness that looks like chicken pox, report all cases of individuals presenting with fever, headache, muscle pains, blistering, rash, and swollen lymph,” Minister Jallah said.

She stated that this is the second time Monkeypox has been confirmed in Liberia.  The first time was in 2018 by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).   

As per the WHO statistics, there are now more than 16 thousand reported cases from 75 countries.

Meanwhile, the Africa CDC’s latest figures reveal that 2,031 monkeypox cases have been detected in 11 African countries, accounting for 12 percent of global cases.

The continental health body has also reported 75 monkeypox-related deaths so far.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare virus disease, especially in central and western Africa that is caused by a poxvirus (species Monkeypox virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus). It can be spread to humans by monkeys, apes, rats, and other animals.

Unlike the past when Monkeypox was thought to be endemic only in West and Central Africa, the virus is now being reported outside Africa in other regions around the world.  The reasons for this unusual pattern are currently unknown, but health authorities in Liberia have urged Liberians not to panic. 

How is Monkeypox Spread?

According to WHO, animal-to-human (zoonotic) transmission can occur from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Eating inadequately cooked meat and other animal products of infected animals is a possible risk factor. People living in or near forested areas may have indirect or low-level exposure to infected animals, the WHO said. 

Human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin injury of an infected person, or recently contaminated objects. Transmission via droplet respiratory particles usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact, which puts health workers, household members, and other close contacts of active cases at greater risk. WHO also states that transmission can also occur via the placenta from mother to fetus (which can lead to congenital monkeypox) or during close contact during and after birth. 

What are the Symptoms of Monkeypox?

According to the US Center for Disease Control, the virus has an incubation period of some seven to 14 days. Initial symptoms are typically flu-like, such as fever, chills, exhaustion, headache, and muscle weakness, followed by swelling in the lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection and disease, the CDC said.

Eventually, there's a rash all over your face and body, including inside your mouth and on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

The painful, elevated poxes are fluid-filled, with blood-red rings surrounding them. 

How is Monkeypox Treated?

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections, according to the CDC. “However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.”

Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.

Where did monkeypox originate?

Monkeypox got its name in 1958 when "two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research," the CDC said.

However, the main disease carrier of monkeypox is still unknown, although "African rodents are suspected to play a part in transmission," the agency said.

The first known case of monkeypox in people was "recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox," the CDC said. Since then, most cases have been concentrated in 11 African countries -- with several outbreaks in the US and Europe related to travel or importation from endemic countries.