Monkeypox, Gary Hart and the Monkey Trade, By Osmund Agbo

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The most recent COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which continue to be felt around the world, should serve as a wake-up call to African governments that remain reactionary at best in their approach to diseases of public health significance. If we decide not to plan, by default we plan to fail. And for those of us who can’t seem to keep our pants on and are thriving in the monkey business, Monkeypox will make you pay.

Gary Hart is an American politician, diplomat, and attorney who represented the state of Colorado in the United States Senate from 1975 to 1987. He rose to national prominence for the manner in which he led the long-running but very successful Senator George McGovern. of South Dakota for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. Although McGovern was squarely defeated by Richard Nixon, taking only one state and the District of Columbia, no one blamed Hart, who came to to be considered a rising star of the Democratic Party. Two years later, he won a Colorado Senate seat in the 1974 Democratic landslide.

Gary first ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, but lost to Walter Mondale, who served as Jimmy Carter’s vice president. He nevertheless established himself as a serious candidate, perceived as eloquent, bearer of new ideas, attractive and who, at the time, was largely in his favor.

When in 1986 he declined to seek re-election to the Senate, it was to devote more time to winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988. Gary quickly earned his place as the undisputed leader and polls after polls showed it far ahead. of his nearest rival, with more than 20 points. But that was before he got entangled in the career-ending monkey business and his candidacy turned into steam. Gary Hart was that guy who couldn’t keep his pants on.

After officially announcing his candidacy on April 13, 1987, rumors began to circulate that he was involved in a host of extramarital affairs. As expected, the candidate strongly denied these allegations and even dared the press to follow him. He joked that they would just be bored. But undeterred, they accepted his offer anyway. One evening in Miami, Florida, Senator Hart was photographed with a pretty blonde named Donna Rice, poised flirtatiously on his lap aboard an 83-foot luxury yacht named Monkey Business. A few days later, he announced his withdrawal from the presidential race.

Many years after the meteoric rise and fall of Gary Hart, there seemed to be an unhealthy, even superstitious, relationship between sex and this creature that often brings men out of favor. Today the world is under threat from another pandemic but this time it is not COVID-19 or its omicron variant. It’s Monkeypox. The monkey turned out not to be man’s best friend.

A report states that from September 2017 to the end of April this year, Nigeria reported a total of 558 suspected cases, of which 231 (41.4%) were confirmed, and from the beginning of January to the end of April, 46 suspected cases were reported, with 15 confirmed from seven states. No deaths have been recorded so far this year. But this figure may not be the whole story, as disease surveillance in Nigeria is poor…

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to smallpox, and many outbreaks are thought to have started with human contact with infected animals in West and Central Africa, often near tropical rainforests. The first human case, we were told, was identified in a nine-year-old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eleven African countries have so far reported cases since 1970 and it is thought to be endemic in those regions. Furthermore? Monkeypox, however, is now spreading globally and has also been reported in Europe and America, with the latter now planning an aggressive nationwide vaccination campaign against the virus.

A report states that from September 2017 to the end of April this year, Nigeria reported a total of 558 suspected cases, of which 231 (41.4%) were confirmed, and from the beginning of January to the end of April, 46 suspected cases were reported, with 15 confirmed from seven states. No deaths have been recorded so far this year. But that figure may not be the whole story, as surveillance of the disease in Nigeria is poor and many cases of monkeypox in rural areas are likely to go undetected.

Nigeria also lacks an all-encompassing national policy to combat the threat that is currently spreading, other than the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) talk of activating the Monkeypox Emergency Operations Center in its May 31 press release.

Most cases show lesions on the genitals or peri-genital area, indicating transmission is likely sexual, seen primarily in men who have sex with men, although the virus can also be spread via body fluids, skin contact and respiratory droplets.

Monkeypox often causes several days of flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that often appears harmless and can be seen in places such as the inside of the anus and places so easy to miss. Nevertheless, the lesions are highly contagious and have even been known to contaminate surfaces or materials such as towels, making it easy to spread from person to person.

It may take some comfort to predict that Monkeypox is unlikely to spread as quickly or cause public health problems of the order of magnitude seen with COVID-19. Nonetheless, an important lesson from the last decade of the COVID-19, Ebola and Zika outbreaks is that uncontrolled transmission means the entire population is at risk.

Controlling outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) depends on rapid and accurate diagnosis, followed by effective treatment of infected people and their contacts. However, Nigeria and many other African countries, plagued by poor resource management, are often caught off guard. Public funding for diagnosis and treatment is low. Disease surveillance and contact tracing rarely exist.

It’s time to get serious about providing safe sexual health services in private and public health facilities. Given that sex is increasingly practiced at a much younger age these days, it is time to demystify it so that teachers in schools and religious leaders in religious groups can offer their help in educating their subjects. This will not only stem the tide of monkeypox outbreaks, but also combat the growing incidence of other STDs.

It may take some comfort to predict that Monkeypox is unlikely to spread as quickly or cause public health problems of the order of magnitude seen with COVID-19. Nonetheless, an important lesson from the last decade of the COVID-19, Ebola and Zika outbreaks is that uncontrolled transmission means the entire population is at risk.

The most recent COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which continue to be felt around the world, should serve as a wake-up call to African governments that remain reactionary at best in their approach to diseases of public health significance. If we decide not to plan, by default we plan to fail. And for those of us who can’t seem to keep our pants on and are thriving in the monkey business, Monkeypox will make you pay. Maybe not like Mr. Hart, but you’ll pay anyway.

Osmund Agbo, a public affairs analyst, is the coordinator of the African Center for Transparency and organizer of the Save Nigeria project. Email: [email protected]

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