On September 22, 2017 , doctor Dimie Ogoina received a strange case at his office in Wilberforce, Nigeria. He was an 11-year-old boy with wounds on his face and body.
It could be chicken pox, but it wasn’t – the boy had already contracted this disease, and he healed, times before. Ogoina suspected a rare disease: monkey pox, caused by the MPXV virus. He took samples of the lesions and sent them for testing. It was positive.
It was the first case in the country in four decades. But not the only one: in the next two months, 41 others appeared. Ogoina was intrigued, because the disease was spreading strangely. Now she infected mainly young men (not children, historically her biggest victims).
These men did not live in the countryside, in contact with the wild animals that normally transmit MPXV. They lived in cities. And in many cases, patients had genital lesions, a new symptom.
This led Ogoina to suspect that the monkey’s smallpox was being transmitted directly between humans, which until then was considered very rare, and also through sexual relations, not only by contact with the patient’s skin or objects he touched (that 11-year-old boy took the disease at home: doctors found that two relatives he lived with had symptoms before him). MPXV was different. It had evolved, and the disease had become more difficult to contain.
Ogoina started trying to alert the authorities, and even published a study about it in the scientific journal PLoS, one of the most important in the world. Not only was it not heard, it was under pressure from the government to be quiet. “I was told not to mention that sexual transmission was possible,” he now revealed in 2022 to the American broadcaster NPR