Federal Republic of Nigeria, the most populated West African nation, has come under spotlight, allegedly as the place of origin of monkeypox virus, which was detected in several European countries in April-May.

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

During these couple of months, at least, 11 countries have reported monkeypox cases, namely Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the United States, and Australia.

Canada’s Montreal has reported 17 suspected cases of monkeypox. According to the health ministry, most cases are confirmed in male gays. Doctors cannot see the threat of a mass outbreak.

After studying the monkeypox situation in the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it sees no grounds for serious concerns, with no restrictions on travel to Britain or on trade with the UK being recommended. WHO has also not officially identified the origin of the disease virus.

Speaking at a briefing on May 17, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus only in passing referred to “monkeypox affecting a number of countries.” Having analyzed the cases of this disease in the UK, the WHO confined their recommendations to a standard set of hygienic requirements and did not insist on travel and trade restrictions for the UK.

Similar to the start of coronavirus, Russia’s health officials refused that the infection was in the Russian Federation, and it later become the worst affected country in the former Soviet region. That however, Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing said that “the risk of the infection being imported to the Russia Federation has been and remains extremely low.” The health watchdog is, however, taking all necessary measures to prevent this disease from being imported to the territory of Russia.

Late May, Russia allegedly asked WHO to investigate the origin of the virus. Chief of Russian Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Force Igor Kirillov said that at least four US-run biolabs operate in Nigeria, where monkeypox pathogen strain originates from and where the US deployed its biological infrastructure. Kirillov added that in this regard, it is necessary to point out a “strange coincidence that requires additional inspection by specialists.”

According to the Defense Ministry’s briefing slides, two US-controlled biolaboratories operate in the city of Abuja, one in the city of Zaria, and another one in Lagos.

“Against the background of numerous cases of US violations of biosafety requirements and facts of negligent storage of pathogenic biomaterials, we call on the leadership of the World Health Organization to investigate the activities of US-funded Nigerian laboratories in Abuja, Zaria, Lagos and inform the world community about its results,” Kirillov said.

Senator Konstantin Kosachev, Federation Council Deputy Speaker, also added his called for urgent investigation. “Of course, the Defense Ministry’s data on the possible origin and sources of the current spread of monkeypox, as in other cases, is very informative and deserves overwhelming attention. We will be discussing aspects associated with threats concerning medicine and health protection at one of the commission’s meetings,” the Russian Senator said.

Nigeria had confirmed 21 cases of monkeypox since the start of the year with one death reported, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Reuters news agency reported on May 30.

Monkeypox, a usually mild viral infection, is endemic in the African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. The NCDC said out of 61 suspected cases of monkeypox reported since January, 21 had been confirmed with one death, that of a 40-year-old man. The cases were reported in nine states and the federal capital Abuja.

“Among the 21 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus, nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence),” NCDC said. Six of the cases were detected in May, it said.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.

Health reports further indicated it is a rare viral disease mainly transmitted to humans by contact with infected wild animals (rodents or primates). The human-to-human transmission is limited as it requires close contact. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, backache, swelling in the lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. It may be followed by a rash on the face and body.