By Elizabeth Sitotombe
MONKEYPOX cases are rapidly spreading all over Europe. Since May 13 2022, cases of the disease have been confirmed in at least 12 countries, with more than 80 cases of monkeypox being confirmed in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
On May 21, at least two cases of monkeypox had been registered in Berlin, Germany.
Many social media users and civic organisations could not help but notice the racist profiling of black people, Africans to be exact, as carriers of the monkeypox disease at a time when it is found nowhere in African countries.
It seems every time a new disease comes out, the West is at pains to associate it with Africa and Africans.
Western media has always been biased where Africa and Africans are concerned. They have a very unhealthy journalistic approach to issues they believe have to do with dark-skinned people.
Monkeypox sounds like a disease that could only come from Africa as we have been referred to as monkeys countless times.
Always these outbreaks bring out the worst in these supposedly democratic, ‘human rights’ concerned countries.
Western media’s racial reportage
The usage of images of black people to depict the outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and North America is nothing short of criminal.
At a time when the world is forging alliances against systematic racism and racial stereotypes, the media in Europe is doing what they know best — racially profiling a disease.
Not too long ago when the variant of concern omicron first emerged in Africa, European media went to town with pictures depicting black germs coming with the virus from Africa.
So racist were the publications one would think the coronavirus had emerged from Africa first.
Likewise, with the recent outbreak, the monkeypox started in Europe yet mainstream media would have people believe it started in Africa.
The images can be found on several websites including Sky News and the BBC. But according to the BBC News, it is the first time the virus has been found in people with no clear connection to Western and Central Africa.
According to thehill.com, senior health officials told reporters the cases were highly unusual because they did not appear to have any direct link to any countries in Western Central Africa where monkeypox is commonly found.
In a press statement, the Foreign Press Association of Africa (FPAA) registered its displeasure against media outlets using images of black people alongside stories of the monkeypox outbreak.
“As any other disease, monkeypox can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion should be the face of this disease.
It is, therefore, disturbing for European and North America media outlets to use stock images bearing persons with dark/black and African skin complexion to depict an outbreak of the disease in the United Kingdom and North America.
Shouldn’t it be logical that if you are talking about the outbreak of monkeypox in Europe or the Americas, you should use images from hospitals across Europe or the Americas? Or, in the absence of such, use a collection of electron micrographs with labelled sub-cellular structures?” read the statement.
“We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to the other races. What is the convenience of using such images to tell the world how Europe and America are reeling from the outbreak of monkeypox? Is the media in the business of ‘preserving white purity’ through ‘black criminality or culpability?’”
What is monkeypox?
According to the WHO, monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread between people.
Symptoms of monkeypox
Symptoms of monkeypox typically include a headache, muscle aches, back pain, fever, fatigue, skin rashes or lesions and swollen lymph nodes. The rash usually begins within one or two days of the start of a fever. Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid and can then crust, dry up and fall off. The number of lesions on one person can range from a few to several thousands,
The rash tends to be concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They can also be found on the mouth, genitals and eyes.
Symptoms usually last between two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment. However, monkeypox can lead to medical complications and even death.
Complications from severe cases of monkeypox include pneumonia, disorientation and eye infections that can lead to loss of vision.
How does monkeypox spread?
One can catch monkeypox through close contact with someone who has symptoms. The rash and bodily fluids are very infectious.
The sharing of clothing, towels, bedding and eating utensils that have been used by an infected person can also affect others. Close interactions with someone who is infectious, including health workers, household members and sexual partners are, therefore, at greater risk of infection.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the foetus through the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth.
Is monkeypox sexually transmitted?
Many people have been asking if the disease is sexually transmitted. According to WHO, monkeypox can spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact.
It is currently not known whether monkeypox can be spread through sexual transmission routes, for example through semen or vaginal fluids. However skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.
Monkeypox rash can resemble sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes and syphilis. The rash can be found on genitals and in the mouth, which is likely to contribute to transmission during sexual contact.
The risk of becoming infected with monkeypox is, therefore, not limited to people who are sexually active.
Steps for self-protection include, avoiding contact with someone presenting symptoms of monkeypox, this means face-to-face and skin-to-skin contact.
Practising safer sex, keeping hands clean with water and soap, use of hand sanitisers and maintaining respiratory etiquette may reduce the risk of infection.
WHO warned that more cases are likely to be reported as more suspected cases are being investigated.
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that the vaccines that were used against smallpox are 85 percent effective against monkeypox.
New-borns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.