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Lay media reporting of monkeypox in Nigeria
  1. Oyeronke Oyebanji1,
  2. Ugonna Ofonagoro2,
  3. Oluwatosin Akande3,
  4. Ifeanyi Nsofor2,
  5. Chika Ukenedo4,
  6. Tarik Benjamin Mohammed1,
  7. Chimezie Anueyiagu5,
  8. Jeremiah Agenyi1,
  9. Adesola Yinka-Ogunleye6,
  10. Chikwe Ihekweazu1
  1. 1Office of the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Abuja, Nigeria
  2. 2EpiAfric, Abuja, Nigeria
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, Nigeria
  4. 4University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  5. 5Department of Prevention and Knowledge Management, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Abuja, Nigeria
  6. 6Department of Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Abuja, Nigeria
  1. Correspondence to Oyeronke Oyebanji; oyeronke.oyebanji{at}ncdc.gov.ng

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Summary box

  • Risk communication is an important but under-appreciated aspect of outbreak response, therefore, understanding the nature and impact of media coverage can assist in modifying messages.

  • Media reports from unauthorised sources during the ongoing monkeypox outbreak in Nigeria were sensationalised and led to increased anxiety in the population.

  • Because of the tendency of the media to amplify, rather than correct rumours, media personnel should be trained prior to an outbreak to reduce distorted reporting.

  • The Nigerian government should maintain an up-to-date communication platform for outbreak reporting, to routinely provide accurate information to the public.

  • There should be a well-defined approach of using event-based surveillance for decision-making, effective communication and for informing how disease outbreaks are reported by the media.

Introduction

In October 2017, the first confirmed case of a monkeypox outbreak was reported in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, although suspected cases started to be reported in September 2017. 1 It continues to this day, with exported cases reaching the UK, Israel and Singapore.2 3 Prior to this outbreak, the disease was last reported in Nigeria in 1978.4

Monkeypox is an orthopox virus, closely related to smallpox, that produces vesicopapular lesions on the skin. Symptoms are usually self-limiting and most people recover within weeks. Severe illness and death usually only occurs among immunosuppressed individuals.5

When the first cases were announced in Nigeria, media reports exaggerated the symptoms and impact of the outbreak. The outbreak generated front page headlines, with one title describing it as a ‘new airborne Ebola’.6 A European headline (from the Voice of Europe) was ‘Horrible Nigerian disease called monkeypox spreads in the United Kingdom for the first time’. The media used unverified pictures of people with skin rashes, to amplify their messages.7

There may be substantial discrepancies between what the National Public Health Institute …

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