Yesterday, fear gripped residents of Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, following an outbreak of viral epidemic known as Monkey Pox in the state, with report that 10 persons are already infected.Authorities in the state were said to be tracking 49 persons alleged to have come in contact with the infected persons.
The victims, according to sources, have been quarantined in an isolation centre created at the Niger Delta University Hospital, NDUTH, Okolobiri, in Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state.The isolation centre was reportedly created by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the epidemiological team of the state’s Ministry of Health at the ourbreak of the epidemic.
The state Commissioner for Health, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu, while confirming the development, said samples of the virus had been sent to the World Health Organisation, WHO, laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, for confirmation. He described Monkey Pox as a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include chicken pox and small pox, noting that the first case was noticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequently it had outbreaks in the West African region.Explaining that the virus had the Central African and the West African types, the commissioner said the West African type was milder and had no records of mortality, saying “recently in Bayelsa State, we noticed a suspected outbreak of Monkey Pox.
“It has not been confirmed. We have sent samples to the World Health Organisation, WHO, reference laboratory in Dakar, Senegal. When that comes out we will be sure that it is confirmed.”
He said the virus was first seen in monkeys, but can also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes.His words: “The source is usually all animals. It was first seen in monkeys and that is why it is called Monkey Pox. But every bush animals like rats, squirrels, antelopes are involved. So, the secretions from particularly dead animals are highly contagious.
The Commissioner said: “We noticed the index case from Agbura, where somebody was purported to have killed and eaten a monkey and after neighbours and family members started developing these rashes.“We have seen cases from as far as Biseni. We invited the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control together with our own epidemiological team from the Bayelsa Ministry of Health. We have been able to trace most of the people who have come in contact with the patients.
“As a state, we are taking care of all the expenses of all the isolated cases. The disease has an incubation period and it is also self-limiting in the sense that within two to four weeks, you get healed and it confers you with immunity for life.“We have mobilised virtually every arsenal at our disposal in terms of sensitising the public and making them aware by radio programmes, jingles and fliers. So the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has mobilised fully to Bayelsa State.
We are on top the situation. “The only thing I will tell the public is to observe hand hygiene and ensure they don’t come in contact with dead animals or their secretions. The disease is airborne too. So when you come down with it is very infectious.“People should wash their hands whenever they go in or come out of their houses. If they come in touch with animals, they should ensure that they wash their hands. They should be very vigilant. People should report any similar cases.“A lot of people have come down with the symptoms, but they are hiding in their houses. If they hide, there is the propensity for the infection to spread. It is better to quarantine them and treat so that we can interrupt the spread of the disease.