Nigeria says at current rate, monkeypox infections in 2022 could be highest in five years

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows mock-up vials labeled "Monkeypox vaccine\

LAGOS (Reuters) - Confirmed cases of monkeypox in Nigeria could reach their highest level in five years if the current trend of infections is maintained, the head of the country's centre for disease control said on Tuesday.

Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa where monkeypox is endemic. Monkeypox occurs when a person comes in contact with the virus from another person, animal or contaminated materials.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has confirmed 62 cases this year, nearly double the number for the whole of last year. In 2017 Nigeria reported 88 cases, said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Monkeypox re-emerged in Nigeria in 2017 after nearly four decades without any reported cases, Idefayo Adefita, NCDC director general told reporters during a virtual briefing.

"We now know based on the trend that we have seen in the last few weeks that if the current trajectory continues or is sustained we may find ourselves in a situation where we match or exceed the peak number of cases seen in 2017," he said.

More than 40 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks of the viral disease as confirmed cases exceeded 4,300.

Lateefat Amao, who heads the NCDC national monkeypox emergency operations centre, told the same briefing that the increase in reported cases could be a result of more people being aware of the symptoms and presenting themselves at hospitals when compared to previous years.

She said there was no evidence in Nigeria so far of sexual transmission of monkeypox.

Adefita, the NCDC head, said Nigeria had approached the United States government and World Health Organisation requesting access to vaccines for monkeypox. He would not say when the vaccines were expected.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)