Residents of Yenegoa, the Bayelsa state capital have been thrown into panic following an outbreak of viral epidemic known as “monkeypox”. Reports reveal that 11 persons, including a medical doctor, are already infected while the government is tracking 49 persons alleged to have come in contact with the infected persons. Persons placed under surveillance have been quarantined in an isolation centre created at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH), Okolobiri, Yenagoa Local Government Area. The centre was established by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the epidemiological team of the state Ministry of Health to control the spread of the virus.
Confirming the development, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu said samples of the virus had been sent to the World Health Organisation laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, for confirmation. Here are quick buzz facts to note about the virus:
Monkeypox is a rare disease that occurs primarily in remote parts of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The first case was noticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequent outbreaks in the West African region.
Monkeypox is a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include chicken pox and smallpox.
WHO says the monkeypox virus can cause a fatal illness in humans and, although it is similar to human smallpox which has been eradicated, it is much milder.
The source of the virus is usually all animals. It was first seen in monkeys, but can also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes. Secretions from particularly dead animals are highly contagious.
Monkeypox is air-borne and very infectious.
Symptoms of monkeypox are a severe headache, fever, back pains, and rashes bigger than those caused by chicken pox which usually spreads to the entire body of infected persons.
The disease has an incubation period and it is also self-limiting. i.e within two to four weeks, a person can get healed and consequently be immune for life.
Speaking on the outbreak in Bayelsa, commissioner Etebu explained that the virus has the Central African and the West African types, adding that the West African type is milder and has no records of mortality. “Recently in Bayelsa State, we noticed a suspected outbreak of monkeypox. It has not been confirmed. We have sent samples to the World Health Organisation’s 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… “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 the rashes. “We have seen cases from as far as Biseni. We invited the NCDC 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. “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 care of all the expenses of all the isolated cases,” Etebu stated.
The commissioner disclosed that the state authorities are on top of the situation and have mobilised virtually every arsenal at its disposal in sensitising the general public and making them aware through radio programmes, jingles and fliers. He, therefore, called on the general public to observe hand hygiene and ensure they don’t come in contact with dead animals and their secretions. “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 to the relevant authorities. “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 them 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 them,” he said.