Kenya detects first Monkeypox case, samples sent to Senegal for analysis

By , K24 Digital
On Fri, 3 Jun, 2022 18:07 | 3 mins read
A monkeypox patient. PHOTO/Courtesy

Kenya has detected the first case of Monkeypox even as experts downplayed any fears of an outbreak.

A source has revealed to K24 Digital that the samples of the suspected case are being taken to Senegal for further analysis and screening.

"The Ministry of Health made a request for a permit to transport the samples to Senegal for screening, and we are certain in due course we will know the truth," the source said insisting that for now the revelation should be treated as a suspected case.

However, according to Dr Emmanuel Okunga, the acting Head of the Division of Disease Surveillance and Response at the Ministry, such requests must pass through the Director-General of health's office, which in this case such a process has not been documented.

He said the case could be mistaken for yellow fever, explaining that there are many diseases that appear with rashes and fever. That either has not been recorded anywhere in the country, he added.

Dr Okunga also revealed that two weeks ago, a case was examined with similar symptoms at Kenyatta National Hospital, but it was not the said virus.

"There was no further investigation because it did not fit the suspected case. Monkeypox is classical in its appearance with the swellings in the body, especially around the groin, " he said noting that someone could be mistaking yellow fever.

"If samples have been ferried then I am not aware, " he stated.

At the Infectious disease laboratory in Kenya Medical Research Institute- Nairobi Campus (KEMRI- Nairobi), Prof. Matilu Mwau also said he was not aware of the reported case.

"So far we know of 31 countries that have reported the Monkeypox virus, but not Kenya," Prof. Mwau, the director at the Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases Control Research (CIPDCR) at Kemri said.

Two weeks ago when Monkeypox became a global concern, Prof Mwau dispelled any fears saying Kemri had the capacity to set up an emergency response to handle any outbreak.

"If such an outbreak occurred in Kenya today, the containment can be in a matter of hours," he added.

In any case, he noted the virus has been in countries at the periphery of Western Kenya for years and has never been a major scientific threat, locally.

“We are not worried- not anywhere near any concern about this virus. In fact, it is possible to up the testing capacity and containment of the virus within a day if there is any threat,” he reacted to concerns by Kenyans after it emerged that more than 10 countries outside were reporting rising cases of Monkeypox.

In Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon for instance, have been experiencing outbreaks for decades, and even closer home, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, are countries known to host the Monkeypox.

“These countries have been experiencing a large outbreak,” he said.

Some reports have shown that Nigeria has about 500 suspected and more than 200 confirmed cases since 2017 when the country reported its first case in more than 39 years.

Mwau said the Monkeypox virus is not like Corona, since it is not transmissible as it has to involve a lot of touching like sharing clothes.

“It is a well-known virus, a DNA one. It is not as dangerous as Corona. Unlike the SARS-Co2, a Ribonucleic acid (RNA), Monkeypox infection and spread would involve a lot of close interaction among people,” he clarified after the concerns seemed to point to similarities with Covid-19.

It is reported that the US also reported an outbreak in 2003 when a shipment of rodents from Ghana spread the virus to pet grassland dogs in Illinois and infected more than 70 people.

Globally, scientists are arguing that, unlike SARS-CoV-2, a rapidly-evolving RNA virus whose variants have regularly eluded immunity from vaccines and prior infection, Monkeypox virus is a relatively large DNA virus.

“DNA viruses are better at detecting and repairing mutations than RNA viruses, which means it’s unlikely that the monkeypox virus has suddenly mutated to become adept at human transmission,” the Nature News website reported on May 20, 2022.

According to the website, scientists are trying to understand why the virus, a less lethal relative of smallpox, has cropped up in so many populations around the world.

“What researchers can tell from this preliminary genetic data is that the monkeypox virus is related to a viral strain predominantly found in western Africa. This strain causes milder disease and has a lower death rate — about 1 per cent in poor, rural populations — compared with the one that circulates in central Africa.

“But exactly how much the strain causing the current outbreaks differs from the one in western Africa — and whether the viruses popping up in various countries are linked to one another — remains unknown,” Nature News reports further.

Unlike SARS-CoV-2, which spreads through tiny airborne droplets called aerosols, monkeypox is thought to spread from close contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva from coughing. That means a person with monkeypox is likely to infect far fewer close contacts than someone with SARS-CoV-2.

Kenya, Prof. Mwau said, has not invested so much in test kits for Monkeypox because it has not been a major threat to the country.

Asked why the samples were being taken to Senegal, the source said the country is one of the few sites with accredited laboratories to screen for such diseases.