UN health officials reported this week that during the week ending Mar. 4, three suspected cases of monkeypox were reported in Bria town in Haute-Kotto Prefecture, Central African Republic (CAR). Samples obtained from the first two cases tested positive for monkeypox at the Institut Pasteur Bangui. Further investigations are ongoing.

Monkeypox Image/CDC
Monkeypox Image/CDC

An isolation unit has been set up in Bria hospital, where the three patients are being treated. The contacts of these cases are being monitored. Standard case definition for monkeypox has been disseminated to facilitate identification of cases and awareness about prevention is ongoing in the community and on the local community radio.

The CAR Ministry of Health is in the process of developing a monkeypox outbreak response plan, following the confirmation of the disease in Bria.

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease indigenous to Central Africa. In humans, the disease is similar to smallpox, though milder.

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According to the CDC, the symptoms of monkeypox are as follows: About 12 days after people are infected with the virus, they will get a fever, headache, muscle aches, and backache; their lymph nodes will swell; and they will feel tired. One to 3 days (or longer) after the fever starts, they will get a rash. This rash develops into raised bumps filled with fluid and often starts on the face and spreads, but it can start on other parts of the body too. The bumps go through several stages before they get crusty, scab over, and fall off. The illness usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

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Rodents, such as rope squirrels, door mice and pouched rats, are the suspected reservoir hosts, with monkeys and humans as secondary, spill-over hosts.

People at risk for monkeypox are those who get bitten by an infected animal or if you have contact with the animal’s rash, blood or body fluids. It can also be transmitted person to person through respiratory or direct contact and contact with contaminated bedding or clothing.

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox.

Nearby Nigeria saw 68 confirmed monkeypox cases late last year, including two fatalities.