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KHARTOUM/JUBA - 2 Aug 2022

Explainer: What you need to know about monkeypox

As the number of monkeypox cases continues to be reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It usually occurs in Central and West Africa.  Since May this year, monkeypox cases have been detected in countries that do not usually see it.

On Sunday, Sudan reported its first confirmed monkeypox case. The Federal Ministry of Health said the first case was detected in a 16-year student in West Darfur state, which borders South Sudan.

“People should be vigilant and not get into close contact with animals that show symptoms of the virus, but we should not panic because the virus version confirmed in Sudan is not fatal, “Dr Fathia al-Gailani, a Sudanese dermatologist and lecturer, told Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday.

What is monkeypox?

Similar to smallpox, but less severe, monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research in Denmark, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Despite being called “monkeypox,” the source of the disease is not known. However, African rodents and non-human primates, like monkeys, may carry it and infect humans. The first human case was reported in 1970. 

What are monkeypox symptoms?

In most cases, someone infected with monkeypox presents symptoms of a flu-like illness, including fever, headache and sore throat, says Dr Fathia. “Swollen lymph nodes can be the main sign, after which a rash like a spot appears. This the main sign that can differentiate monkeypox from the other similar viruses.” 

Acceding to Dr Fathia, infection with the monkeypox virus begins with an incubation period. “A person is not contagious during this period. The incubation period can range from one to three weeks. After a person presents symptoms, the disease becomes contagious.”

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread in different ways. However, close contact with the virus from an infected animal, human or contaminated object is the main pathway. “The virus can also spread through sexual intercourse or from the mother to a baby,” she said.

How can you prevent monkeypox transmission?

There are several ways people can prevent monkeypox infection, including avoiding skin-to-skin contact with a monkeypox rash, not handling or touching bedding and clothing of a person who has monkeypox and washing hands often with soap and water.

 “Any animal showing symptoms should not be eaten. Some animals should be avoided these days, such as squirrels and rats. People should avoid those animals so that we protect ourselves from monkeypox,” she said

Dr Fathia advises the public in Sudan and South Sudan to familiarize themselves with signs and symptoms, as well as prevention techniques but said people should not panic.

She pointed out that the West African strain of the monkeypox virus is generally associated with milder disease and fewer deaths. “A person presenting monekypox symptoms should be isolated. We also need to sanitize our hands from time to time,” she concluded.