Morocco records three suspected cases of monkeypox

Morocco records three suspected cases of monkeypox
3 min read
24 May, 2022
The health ministry’s announcement triggered fear and distress among many Moroccans, who voiced concerns on social media about a scenario akin to the COVID-19 pandemic in which the country sealed off its borders for two years.
So far, Israel is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa that has recorded a confirmed case. [Getty]

Morocco has recorded three suspected cases of monkeypox, announced the Moroccan Ministry of Health on Monday evening.

In an official video sent to Moroccan media, the ministry reported that national health authorities have detected three suspected cases with common monkeypox symptoms.

"We are now talking about suspected cases, and they have undergone the necessary medical tests, and we are waiting for the results soon," said Moaz Al-Mrabet, Coordinator of the National Center for Public Emergency Operations at the Ministry of Health, during the recorded video.

The Moroccan Ministry of Health confirmed the news, stressing that "no case has been confirmed until the moment," in a statement to The New Arab.  The ministry did not provide further details regarding the suspected cases.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis, a virus transmitted to humans from animals, with symptoms very similar to those seen in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. It can spread between humans through close, physical contact. It usually begins with flu-like symptoms and then progresses to body rashes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that as of last Saturday it has confirmed around 92 cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox, with recent outbreaks reported in 12 countries where the disease is not typically found, according to the global health agency.

So far, Israel is the only country in the Middle East and North African region that has recorded a confirmed case.

Monkeypox is not a new virus as it was first detected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Since then, most cases have been recorded in West and Central Africa.

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The international concern is due to the outbreak of the virus in countries where monkeypox is not endemic. WHO expects more cases to be reported in the coming days as surveillance expands.

The Moroccan health ministry said that the kingdom has never recorded any monkeypox cases in the past years, adding that special training was given to national health authorities to tackle this potentially new outbreak.

Moroccan authorities have also instructed local authorities in the city of Marrakesh, in the south of the country, to "inventory the monkeys in Jamaâ El Fna Square", a historical square famous for performances of monkeys whose dances attract hundreds of tourists.

The health ministry has released Monday a national "Vigilance Scheme", urging citizens to inform health authorities of possible or suspected cases of infection with the virus.

"If any cases of monkeypox emerge at the national level, they would be hospitalised in a room in which the patient is isolated for 3 weeks, with resorting to the treatment of symptoms with the antiviral Tecovirimat," added a source from the health ministry to The New Arab.

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Tecovirimat is a medicine to treat smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox, three infections caused by viruses belonging to the same family (orthopoxviruses). It is also used to treat complications that can happen following vaccination against smallpox.

The Directorate of Medicines at the Moroccan Health Ministry is discussing taking necessary measures to purchase quantities of Ticoverimate, to treat cases likely to be infected with monkeypox virus in Morocco, according to the source.

The health ministry's announcements triggered fear and distress among many Moroccans, who voiced concerns over social media about a scenario akin to the COVID-19 pandemic in which the country sealed off its borders for about two years.

Health experts insist that the chances of forcing a global lockdown are "very low" since the virus does not spread easily between humans, and an existing smallpox vaccine could help protect people if needed.