The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a week ago a public health emergency due to the increase in the number of cases: more than 20,000 worldwide.. In Africa, a more serious version of smallpox has already killed more than 70 people, while Spain has recorded two deaths and Brazil one.
But as the disease spreads, some scientists believe the current epidemic could have been avoided if the authorities had heeded the warnings of a Nigerian doctor.
Dimie Ogoinaprofessor of medicine at the University of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, suspected a new disease was spreading 5 years agoSeptember 22, 2017.
That day he arrived at his clinic 11-year-old boy with strange rash and mouth sores.
“He had very big injuries that affected his face and his whole body”Ogoina said National Public Radio, the United States public service broadcaster.
After ruling out chicken pox – the boy had already had it – Ogoina wondered if the condition it was an extremely rare disease: monkey pox.
Since Nigeria did not have the capacity to carry out tests, they sent the samples to Senegal and the United States. A few days later, the test results confirmed Ogoina’s suspicions: the boy had monkeypox.
This case, the first in Nigeria in 38 years, was the first known of the international epidemic which is currently spreading in 78 countries.
When Ogoina first diagnosed the boy with monkeypox in 2017, thought the virus would act as it has for over 50 years in other parts of Africa, with animal-to-human spread. “There was speculation that this child was playing with monkeys in the communityOgoina said.
Initially, Ogoina and his colleagues thought the virus would be limited, as it had been on other occasions. But a few weeks after the boy’s diagnosis, Ogoina began to worry.
The epidemic in Nigeria began to grow rapidly. Cases have popped up in counties not just near this child but everywhere. “Suddenly we saw cases all over the countryOgoina said.
What surprised scientists was that the virus was not only affecting children living in rural areas, but also men in their 20s and 30s living in modern cities.
Ogoina and his colleagues began to investigate these patients further. “We decided to do an evaluation of the sexual history of some of the cases“, He says. This evaluation revealed that many patients had high-risk sexual behaviors, including multiple partners and sex with prostitutes.
Thus, they understood that the disease, for the first time, spread through sexual contact. Ogoina and his colleagues even mentioned the idea in a study published in 2019. “Although the role of sexual transmission of human monkeypox has not been established, sexual transmission is plausible in some of these patients through close skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse or through transmission through genital secretions.“, wrote Ogoina and his colleagues in the newspaper PLOS One.
This meant that the epidemic in Nigeria would be much harder to stop. The results meant that monkeypox was no longer just a threat to communities in West and Central Africa, but also a potential threat to the world.
During the last years, Ogoina said he tried repeatedly to warn health officials and scientists that monkeypox had changed. and possibly spread through sexual contact. At an international meeting, he tried to raise the possibility of sexual transmission. But someone told him to shut up.
“Yes, someone told me not to tell. That he didn’t say that sexual transmission is possible”Ogoina remembers with exasperation in his voice. “He said to me, ‘We shouldn’t worry about sexual transmission.'”
According to the doctor, in subsequent years, Nigerian health authorities reduced their search for new cases, allowing the disease to spread. A hypothesis supported by an evolutionary biologist analysis michael worobey from the University of Arizona.
And eventually the epidemic spread to other countries and became the growing international epidemic that the world is currently fighting.
Now, Ogoina said he was concerned that limited vaccine stocks around the world could lead to a repeat of the problems seen during the coronavirus pandemic.when the poorest countries were left empty-handed after the rich countries racked up most of the doses.
“It does not make sense to only control the epidemic in Europe and America, because then you will always have the (animal) source of the epidemic in Africa.Ogoina said.
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