AKAMKPA, Nigeria—The two sons of Destiny, a 48-year-old Nigerian businessman whose nephew had recently contracted the monkeypox virus, are already showing similar symptoms.
They have swollen lymph nodes, which started a couple of days after they developed a fever. Despite the rash on their bodies morphing into pus-filled pimples that have scabbed over, Destiny believes his sons are only feeling the effect of the heat wave sweeping Nigeria’s southeastern Cross River State, where they live. He has prevented his sons—both in their early twenties—from visiting the hospital, believing that the rash “will go away after some time.”
“In less than a week, everything will be gone,” Destiny told The Daily Beast just outside his home in the town of Akamkpa in the southern region of Cross River. “We’ve started applying calamine lotion [a medication commonly used to treat mild itchiness] on it and we’ll soon start seeing results.”
Monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease caused by a virus transmitted from animals to humans, was first discovered among monkeys kept for research in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) back in 1958, and later in humans in the same country in 1970. The disease is currently endemic in rodent and monkey populations in West and Central Africa, including in Nigeria, where cases are surging and causing flu-like symptoms and rashes in infected people. Recently, the virus has cropped up in Europe and the U.S., raising alarm that the illness could soon spiral into a pandemic.
Few around Destiny’s compound seem to believe the disease really exists. As was the case with some COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, many believe it’s another “so-called” illness conceived by the West for the purpose of introducing vaccines that will reduce the population in Africa. It’s the kind of belief that is already hampering coronavirus vaccination in Nigeria, with only close to 17 million in a country of 200 million people fully inoculated.
“America has started again with another talk of infectious disease outbreak,” one of Destiny’s neighbors murmured as he heard Destiny speaking to The Daily Beast. “They [Americans] saw that Africans didn’t buy into their COVID scam and so introduced this one [monkeypox] to scare people.”
But as many very close to Destiny live in denial, signs that the disease lives very close to them are glaring. A woman who developed a rash and swollen lymph nodes on her body blamed the occurrence on a “spiritual attack” by her enemies, according to her younger sister, and had to run to the home of a traditional medicine practitioner about 200km (120 miles) away for treatment. No one, her sibling said, has seen or heard from her since. Another 80-year-old man who died a week ago was said to have had symptoms of monkeypox, but did not seek medical attention.
“Many people are scared that if they come to hospitals and are diagnosed with the disease, they could be separated from their families and quarantined for a long time,” Dr. Collins Anyachi of the Department of Family Medicine at the university teaching hospital (UCTH) in Calabar, the Cross River State capital,…
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