A new viral epidemic known as “monkey pox”, has broken out in Bayelsa State.
It was gathered that a medical doctor and 10 persons, who came down with the monkey pox had been quarantined in an isolation centre created at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) Okolobiri, Yenagoa Local Government Area. 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 to stop the spread of the virus.
It was learnt that the NCDC and the epidemiological team were tracking 49 other cases , who were said to have come in contact with the infected persons.
The state Commissioner for Health Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, who confirmed the development said samples of the virus had been sent to the World Health Organisation 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, adding that the first case was noticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequently it had outbreaks in West African region. Explaining that the virus has the Central African and the West African types, the commissioner said the West African type is milder and has no records of mortality.
“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. But from all indications, it points towards it”, he said.
He said as the name implied, the virus was first seen in monkey, but could also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes.
He said: “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”.
Etebu listed the symptoms of monkey pox severe headache, fever, back pains amongst other symptoms adding that most worrisome of all the signs were rashes bigger than those caused by chicken pox. He said the rashes are usually frightening and usually spread to the whole body of an infected persons.
On Bayelsa case, he said: “We noticed the first index case from Agbura where somebody was purported to have killed and eaten a monkey and after that the people who are neighbours and families 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. “I think so far we have 10 patients and we have created an isolation centre at the NDUTH and most of them are on admission and we are following up the 49 cases that we are suspecting might come down with the illness. As a state we are taking car 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 sensitizing the general 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 general public is to observe hand hygiene and ensure they don’t come in contact with dead animals, 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. People should be calm and they shouldn’t get frightened. The state has distributed personal protective equipment to workers and they are using it”.