By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that it was working with national health authorities in Africa to bolster surveillance and laboratory diagnosis to detect cases and deter a silent spread of the virus.
The continent as of June 28 has reported 1,821 cases in 13 countries of which 109 are laboratory confirmed in nine countries. The number of confirmed cases accounts for 2 per cent of the more than 4,500 confirmed cases globally.
However, there are a large number of suspected cases in the region, 81 per cent of which are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, underlining the need for increased diagnostic capacity.
While all African countries have the polymerase chain reaction machines needed to test for monkeypox thanks to reinforced laboratory capacity in the wake of COVID-19, many lack reagents and in some cases training in specimen collection, handling and testing.
As a result, WHO is working to secure 60,000 tests for Africa, with around 2,000 tests and reagents to be shipped to high-risk countries and 1,000 to those facing lower risk.
Over the past months, five more African countries have received donations of reagents from partners, bringing to 12 the number of countries in the region with enhanced monkeypox diagnostic capacity. Another group of countries in West Africa will receive reagents after participating in a training.
Outside the six countries in Africa with a history of human transmission, monkeypox has also been reported in three countries which have not previously had any human cases. These include Ghana, Morocco and South Africa, which have confirmed the disease in two patients with no travel history, suggesting there is a high possibility of local transmission.
“The geographic spread of monkeypox to parts of Africa where cases have never been detected before is a worrying sign,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is critical that we support national efforts to boost surveillance and laboratory diagnosis, which are the cornerstones of disease control.”
To deepen the analysis of monkeypox transmission patterns, WHO is supporting countries to capitalize on the improved genomic sequencing capacity built during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many years of research have led to the development of new and safer (second- and third-generation) vaccines for smallpox, some of which may be useful for monkeypox and one of which (MVA-BN) has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox. However, supplies are limited.
“What happened in the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout when Africa watched on the sidelines as other countries snapped up limited supplies must not be allowed to recur. There are some signs that this is already happening,” said Dr Moeti. “The current global spotlight on monkeypox should be a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa. For this, we know vaccines are a critical tool.”
WHO is also working closely with the Member States and partners to define what type of coordination mechanism could be put in place to ensure fair access to vaccines. There are many regulatory, legal, operational, technical, and other issues to clarify before an allocation mechanism is fully operational.
With limited vaccines and antivirals, WHO does not recommend mass vaccination for monkeypox but rather targeted vaccination for people who have been exposed or are at high risk including health workers, laboratory personnel and outbreak team responders.
WHO, Edo Intensify Response to Combat Monkeypox
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Edo State government have intensified a coordinated response to contain the spread of the Monkeypox disease.
So far, Nigeria has reported 357 suspected cases with 133 confirmed monkeypox cases from 25 states – Lagos, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Nasarawa Plateau FCT, Ondo, Anambra Cross River, Kwara, Borno, Taraba, Oyo, Imo, Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Niger Ogun, Kogi, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom and Abia.
Meanwhile, eight persons have so far tested positive for monkeypox in Edo state, and all the people diagnosed with the disease have recovered.
The Director, Public Health, Edo State Ministry of Health, Dr Ojeifo Stephenson, said it has become imperative to warn the residents of the state about the health risks that the virus poses and reiterate the need to be cautious and adhere to preventive measures.
He said the state Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, has ramped up surveillance, diagnostics and other activities to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
“We have stepped up surveillance including prompt investigation of suspected cases, facilitating documentation of contacts, contact tracing and monitoring, as well as developed and disseminated public health advisory to raise awareness about the disease among residents of the state,” he said.
Additionally, Dr Benson Okwara, who works at UBTH, said WHO has been an invaluable partner in the response to monkeypox diagnosis and treatment in the facility.
Dr Okwara has five years of experience in managing patients with monkeypox.
He lamented that the disease spreads within the communities because of the poor health-seeking behaviour and late presentation of the case to the hospital.
“However, with WHO’s coordination, there is an early response following notification of suspected/confirmed cases with detailed case investigations using the monkeypox case investigation form (CIF) to collect data on patient contacts.
“There is a need for continuous risk messaging to educate people about infectious diseases and the importance of seeking medical care early and at appropriate health facilities to prevent the spread of diseases,” he said.
Across Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), supported by WHO, has activated Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre to strengthen in-country preparedness and contribute to the global response to the outbreak.
Furthermore, WHO is supporting the coordination of technical assistance and operational support of partners, including the national One-health risk surveillance and information sharing (NOHRSIS) group, to facilitate timely information exchange on all prioritized zoonotic diseases.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease endemic in Nigeria and some parts of Africa.
However, there has been sporadic spread to other countries as more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported across more than 70 countries so far this year, and the number of confirmed infections rose 77 per cent from late June through early July.
The virus is being transmitted from animals to humans.
Recently, WHO activated its highest alert level for the growing monkeypox outbreak, declaring the virus a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO to Help Nigeria Achieve NHIA Act 2022 Objectives
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its desire to support Nigeria in operationalising the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act 2022 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2022.
WHO’s Country Representative (WR), Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, made this pledge during a high-level meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, the Director General, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Professor Mohammed Sambo, and a team of WHO Health Financing Mission delegates from the WHO Geneva, Africa Regional Office, and Nigeria.
The first ever high-level WHO Health Financing Mission to Nigeria, led by Dr Joseph Kutzin, was scheduled to provide sustainable health financing support to the country towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health security while undertaking targeted advocacy to accelerate operationalization of the NHIA Act including the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF).
This is in line with WHO’s goal of ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship.
Dr Mulombo said President Buhari’s signing of the NHIA Bill into law will make health insurance mandatory for all legal residents in Nigeria and expands coverage to over 83 million poor and vulnerable people.
He expressed the optimism that government will prioritize immediate appropriation of the Special Intervention Fund in the Act to establish the Vulnerable Group Fund.
“Indeed, the task of ensuring that all citizens have access to the quality healthcare they need without falling into poverty is a deliberate political decision to achieve the cardinal objectives of population coverage, service coverage, and financial protection. I have no doubts that in a large federal nation like Nigeria, this milestone of appropriating the Special Intervention Fund will be achieved in the 2023 fiscal year”, he said.
In his remarks, Mr Mustapha appreciated WHO as the foremost development partner to Nigeria on health and lauded WHO’s invaluable guidance, particularly on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WHO has demonstrated that it is an organization that cares for and caters for the health needs of the people. On the NHIA, let me commend the DG for his tenacity and determination to have this Act come to fruition. I want to thank WHO and other partners who supported in the drafting of the Bill. This modest attempt has provided basic health insurance coverage to the vulnerable, and making it mandatory will go a long way in assisting our people to manage their income and remain at work in terms of the depressed economy we are witnessing”.
The SGF further expressed the government’s commitment to appropriate the Special Intervention Fund (SIF) in the 2023 national budget for the establishment of the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF).
“No family in Nigeria has economically survived catering for any of their own suffering from cancer. The health of our people is therefore topmost on our priorities despite competing demands”, he stated.
Monkeypox: Russians Are Back With Cheap Health Publicity
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
With rising cases of the monkeypox virus, Russians are back seeking again cheap health publicity in Africa. Just as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov completed his four African-nation tours, Russia plans to send monkeypox test kits to Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia and Congo.
Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said in a media statement that Russian test systems to diagnose monkeypox would be provided to Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Republic of Congo at the end of July.
“Rospotrebnadzor is continuing to extend support to partner countries’ efforts to counter the spread of monkeypox. Test systems produced by Rospotrebnadzor’s Vector Research Center will be handed over to Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Republic of Congo at the end of July,” the press service said.
“Furthermore, Rospotrebnadzor specialists are arranging special workshops for colleagues from partner countries that deal with laboratory methods to diagnose monkeypox,” it said.
Rospotrebnadzor said earlier that the Vector Research Center had produced monkeypox test kits, and such testing is currently available in all Russian regions.
Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease, most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa. Its symptoms include nausea, fever, rash, itch and muscle pain.
On July 12, Rospotrebnadzor announced the first national case of monkeypox: the patient had returned from Portugal. His symptoms were mild and did not endanger the patient’s life. Rospotrebnadzor said that all his contacts had been promptly identified and were under medical monitoring. The threat of spread has been contained.
Faced with a surge in monkeypox cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared the outbreak of monkeypox as a global health emergency — the highest alarm it sounded. Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20.
WHO, however, warned against discrimination. “A failure to act will have grave consequences for global health,” Lawrence Gostin, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said on Twitter.
Some experts have asked why Russians have not chosen African countries such as Nigeria, or regions such as Central and West Africa where the virus is currently spreading most. But have listed as priority countries that Sergey Lavrov visited on 24-27 July: Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo.
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