Mukudzei Chingwere-Herald Reporter
GOVERNMENT remains on guard against the monkeypox virus, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza has said.
The virus has been reported in several countries which are not endemic and continue to be reported in several endemic countries but has not yet been detected in Zimbabwe.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said most confirmed cases with travel history reported travel to countries in Europe and North America, rather than West or Central Africa where the monkeypox virus is endemic.
WHO says this is the first time that many monkeypox cases and clusters have been reported concurrently in non-endemic and endemic countries in disparate geographical areas.
Thus, Government feels the need to be on guard to protect its citizenry from the virus before it is reported.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care wishes to reassure the public that currently no cases have been reported in Zimbabwe and is monitoring the evolving situation of the monkeypox outbreak,” said Air Commodore, Dr Chimedza in an earlier statement.
“The Ministry has also placed its structures on high alert and is conducting preparedness and response activities. The public is urged to report suspected cases to the nearest health facility as soon as possible or use our toll-free line: 2019.”
Reports of the monkeypox virus, come at a time when Zimbabwe has mounted a thorough and comprehensive response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and there are high hopes that the country will be equal to future pandemics.
Dr Chimedza said, monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is endemic to Central and West Africa, which spreads through close contact with people, animals or material infected with the virus.
He warned the public and stakeholders of an on-going outbreak of non-endemic countries including neighbouring South Africa.
“The first case which was reported in the United Kingdom on the 7th of May 2022, has a history of having travelled to Nigeria.
“As of the 31st of July 2022, a total of 6 785 confirmed cases, 106 probable cases and 561 suspected cases have been reported.”
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, rash, headache, muscle ache and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and respiratory symptoms among others.
Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox and symptoms are similar but it is not related to chickenpox, the illness usually lasts two to four weeks.
“Currently, there is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox virus infection,” said Dr Chimedza.
However, the disease can be prevented through, avoiding contact with animals that could harbour the virus, and avoiding contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal or person.
Isolating infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection, practising good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans such as washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, using personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.