Uganda sends four suspected monkeypox samples to South Africa

Uganda sends four suspected monkeypox samples to South Africa
A teenage boy believed to have monkeypox was examined by doctors in the Republic of Congo in 2017. COURTESY PHOTO: Melina Mara/The Washington Post, via Getty Images

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has sent four suspected samples of monkeypox to South Africa. The monkeypox samples were picked from suspected patients in Kampala who presented with some symptoms of the disease like headaches and rashes.

Monkeypox is a viral disease caused by the orthopoxvirus. It is a zoonotic disease spread from animals to human beings. The disease belongs to the same family as the eradicated smallpox disease.

The disease is transmitted from one person to another through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as beddings. The disease can also be transmitted by eating inadequately cooked meat from an infected animal. It is endemic in four African countries; DRC, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Central Africa Republic.

Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute says that the samples were shipped to South Africa because Uganda does not have the ability to test the samples.

“At the moment we cannot diagnose the disease. We have shipped the samples to South Africa and are in talks with DRC to send some there as we wait for reagents to be able to carry out the test,” he said.

While Prof Kaleebu could not reveal the amount of money that would be used to test the samples, he said that testing the disease uses the same machine as for COVID-19 except that the reagents used are different.

“It’s the same machine that is used. But we change the reagents and that is what we are waiting for. We are expecting some reagents from WHO, CDC, and other partners,” he added.

rThe discovery of the suspected cases comes days after Ministry of Health officials downplayed the possibility of the country reporting any cases. During an interview with this , the Director of Public Health Dr. Daniel Kyabayinza intimated that monkeypox, which is endemic in the DRC was not a threat to Uganda.

When called to enquire about the four samples, Dr. Kyabayinze denied having any knowledge about them and referred our reporter to the Ministry of Health spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona.

Ainebyoona says that he had not heard about the cases though he confirmed that the health ministry is working towards increasing surveillance for the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 200 cases of the disease have been reported globally in over 80 countries. So far, the majority of the cases have been reported among men who have sex with men.

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In Africa, the disease has been reported in neighboring DRC where over 1,200 cases have been detected since the year began. 58 people have so far succumbed to the disease.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of Emerging Diseases at WHO last week during a virtual press conference said that the disease is immunizable.

“This is not a new disease. It has been in some parts of the world and we know that the vaccine for the eradicating smallpox is effective. So we have vaccines and now need to work on ensuring that all the populations that need them get them,” he said.