The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has decried what it described as widespread misinformation about the monkeypox infection, especially in Nigeria.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Ifedayo Adetifa, said this on Tuesday at a virtual media dialogue on the infection.
Adetifa, however, admitted that there was an uptick in Monkeypox cases in Nigeria.
“If not contained, it could exceed the peak number of cases seen in 2017 when the infection re-emerged.
“Monkeypox is not a plot to cause lockdowns like COVID-19 and there is no evidence of the release of the virus from a laboratory,” he said.
He noted that more than 3,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death have been recorded globally as of June 22.
The NCDC said that nearly 5,000 human infections with monkeypox have been reported worldwide.
The NCDC DG said though rare, Monkeypox was not a novel disease.
“In Nigeria, there has been no observed change in transmissibility of the virus nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile, and virulence) nor is there evidence of sexual transmission.
“Apart from misinformation, discrimination and stigmatisation that comes with the Monkeypox infection need urgent intervention across the globe.
“Prevailing media perception and misinformation on monkeypox has fuelled false narratives about the virus, and the potential risk of discrimination and stigmatisation from this requires urgent social and behaviour change intervention.
Since its sudden resurgence in 2017, he said, a multi-agency Technical Working Group (TWG) coordinated at the NCDC has led Nigeria’s efforts to improve the detection, prevention, and control of monkeypox.
“Importantly, we have gained a better understanding of the epidemiology of the virus to inform preparedness and response in-country,” he said.
He said that genomic sequencing is ongoing at NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory to identify possible mutations and the epidemiology of the virus.
According to him, NCDC is supporting the global effort to respond to the disease as well as pushing for the renaming and re-classification of the virus to a “non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising nomenclature”.
“Monkeypox is a priority despite being neglected for years, especially during outbreaks as we have had in Nigeria and neighbouring countries such as DRC a few years back.
“While it is unfortunate that it takes such a global spread for the needed attention to be given, here in Nigeria, it has remained a priority for us,” he said.
Also speaking, the WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, urged journalists to address misconceptions about Monkeypox disease which has continued to fuel false narratives about Nigeria globally.
“What is important is to avert any potential inequitable access to vaccines experienced by African countries including Nigeria in the early stages of a pandemic,” he said.
Mulombo, who was represented by the Deputy Country Rep- Dr Alexander Chimbaru said that the rumours and misinformation would cause more harm and loss of lives than the monkeypox disease itself.
“There’s a need for us all to have one coordinated response to monkeypox locally and globally to avoid it from becoming another pandemic. Which by implication, means equitable access to essential tools, resources and information exchange.
“Therefore, what is extremely important now with monkeypox is to avert any potential for a repeat of the inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines experienced by African countries, including Nigeria, early in the pandemic.
“There has not been any use of smallpox vaccines for monkeypox outbreaks in Africa. Since the eradication of smallpox, small quantities of smallpox vaccines have been kept in a few national stockpiles.
“They are very limited and not in use for vaccination,” he said.
He said that a new vaccine (MVA-BN) against smallpox and monkeypox has been approved but is not yet widely available outside national stockpiles.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that monkeypox has been reported in more than 40 countries outside of Africa, where smallpox was virtually unknown until May 2022,
According to the WHO, from January to June 22, 42 countries across five regions have reported a cumulative total of 3,413 confirmed cases with over 90 per cent recorded in non-endemic countries.
The WHO European Region topped the infection with 2,933 cases, representing 86 per cent of the total cases, followed by the Region of the Americas with 381, amounting to 11 per cent.
The African Region came third on the log with 73 cases, representing two per cent of the global cases reported from six countries, with Nigeria topping the list.
Nigeria is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Cameroon, and Congo.
Meanwhile, the monkeypox emergency committee convened by the WHO began its deliberations in Geneva.
The experts represented therein must assess whether this is an “emergency of international concern”, the highest alert level that the WHO can impose. It last did this when Sars-CoV-2 appeared on Jan. 30.