Dr. Heikel says "yes to caution, yes to vigilance, but no psychosis"

After the confirmation of several cases in Europe, the United States or Canada, the Moroccan Ministry of Health and Social Protection announced, on the evening of Monday, May 23, the registration of 3 suspected cases of monkey pox better known as Monkeypox. An announcement that has created great concern among citizens, who see it as the start of another nightmare similar to that of Covid-19. But above all, we must not panic and be in excess, recommends Pr. Jaâfar Heikel, epidemiologist, infectious disease specialist and health economist.

Monkeypox or Monkeypox was first identified in 1970 in humans in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in a 9-year-old boy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease comes from countries in central and western Africa such as Nigeria or Cameroon and is caused by a virus transmitted by animals (monkeys or rodents). ).

Unlike smallpox which is more dangerous and which was eradicated in the world in 1980, monkeypox observes a low level of dangerousness, assures the WHO.

Now, and in the face of this new disease, a wave of psychosis has been observed among citizens who fear a new epidemic while the Covid-19 health crisis is still relevant. Solicited by MoroccoLatestNews UK on this subject, Pr. Jaâfar Heikel, epidemiologist, infectious disease specialist and health economist, believes that public policies must have a proportionality in the reaction to a health phenomenon.

This disease has existed since the 1950s, unlike Covid, which we knew absolutely nothing about. I have been an infectious disease specialist for 30 years, I knew about Sars-Cov 1, but I had never heard of Covid-19. On the other hand, monkeypox is known and has even been endemic for years. This means that it exists permanently in Central Africa. Cameroon, Nigeria and DRC are experiencing this disease“, says Prof. Heikel.

During his explanations, the infectiologist made a point of recalling that in 2003, 19 years ago, the United States experienced an epidemiological peak of monkeypox, followed by another peak in 2018 in Great Britain, in Singapore and Israel. ” So it’s not new. We know the natural history of this disease, and as a result, we know the evolution“, he pointed out.

Now, is this a contagious disease? Yes, says the epidemiologist who explains to us ” that the disease has gone from being a strict zoonosis (transmission from animals to humans strictly, to animal-to-human and also human-to-human transmission)“, noting that” it is human-to-human transmission that may worry officials since we can estimate that the disease will spread everywhere ” .

The major challenge in the future is the resilience and responsiveness of the health system

This spread of the disease, the specialist will tell us, can spread if we do not take the preventive measures and if we do not isolate confirmed or suspected cases, noting that the disease is easy to see in people with fever ( +38°) or having skin lesions.

The person with monkeypox can self-isolate at home for two weeks. There is spontaneous recovery in the majority of cases. So yes caution, yes vigilance, but no psychosis“, insists Pr. Heikel who is against confinement on either side and panic every time there is a virus, a bacterium or a parasite that appears.

Obviously we must protect the health of populations, but it is the role of the state, journalists, doctors, to reassure, to explain, to raise awareness, then to isolate and take charge of” , he added.

Asked about the existing treatments against monkey pox, Pr. Heikel first specifies that the vaccine is not a treatment. ” We have the classic smallpox vaccine which was known and which gave quite interesting results, but which is only available in state structures or in military hospitals.“, he tells us.

In addition, there is symptomatic treatment which is isolation and a lot of hydration in addition to two antivirals which are not available in all pharmacies, and which exist in certain international centers, he confides to us. In addition, he will tell us, the antiviral is only necessary in cases that are advanced or complicated, since the majority of cases heal spontaneously in two to four weeks.

If we were to need its antivirals, I think Morocco has the necessary experience because it has been very efficient in the management of medicines and vaccines during the Covid-19 period. We can therefore have this antiviral at the desired time.“, he reassures.

The other question that arises is whether Morocco is ready to manage another health crisis linked to Monkeypox. According to Prof. Heikel, “ Morocco has done well to quickly put in place a national alert and response plan, namely health control at the borders, attention to animals that must be imported in coordination with the veterinary services while working on wild animals and above all the rodent“.

According to the epidemiologist, it is thought that the monkey is the reservoir, but it is not at all certain. The monkey may only be an intermediate host. Perhaps the real reservoir is rodents. So you have to be very careful, especially since there are a lot of people who are starting to adopt wild animals.“, says the specialist.

To conclude, Pr. Heikel believes that Morocco is doing very well in terms of alert and surveillance. ” Now the major challenge in the future is the resilience and responsiveness of the health system. That is to say preparing the public and private sectors, the hospital beds, the isolation units, and I think that will go very well. Above all, do not panic and do not overdo it. It takes the right measure“, he recommends.


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