The public was jolted when the Monkeypox virus broke out in Bayelsa state recently, with the state government confirming some persons infected with the deadly virus had started showing signs. The first index case reportedly came from Agbura in Yenagoa where somebody was said to have killed and eaten monkey meat and started developing rashes. Subsequently, 13 people were reported to have been infected including a medical doctor, and were been quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, in Yenagoa Local Government Area.
Monkeypox is a rare viral ‘zoonosis’ (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms in humans similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although in less severe proportion. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980, but Monkeypox still occurs sporadically in some parts of Africa. Medical experts have suggested that the virus was first seen in monkeys but can also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes, and urge members of the public to step up surveillance on all edible animals.
The National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said transmission of the disease could be via contact with infected animals, humans, or contaminated materials.”Animal-to-human transmission occurs through bites or a scratch from animals and bush meat preparation.
“It can also be transmitted from one person to another. Human-to-human transmission occurs through respiratory droplets, contact with infected persons or contaminated materials.
“Control measures include isolation of suspected or confirmed cases, strict adherence to universal precautions, especially frequent hand washing with soap and water, and use of personal protective equipment,”
Surprisingly, within a short time of about two weeks, other suspected cases were reported in six more states in the country, including Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun and Cross River, although Ogun denied the virus had spread to the state. While the denial of Ogun could stave off public anxiety, we call on the state government to comb every nook and cranny of the state to ensure that its denial is not only political after all. The NCDC said samples had been collected from each of the suspected cases for laboratory confirmation and results were still being awaited.
According to NCDC chief executive officer, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, no deaths had been recorded as a result of the virus, and that it remained unlikely that many of the suspected cases were actually monkey pox.” All the suspected cases are currently receiving appropriate medical care and the patients are all improving clinically in their various states.
“The Federal Ministry of Health, through the NCDC, is supporting the affected states to ensure the outbreak is brought under control and to limit further spread.
“NCDC has activated an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) to coordinate the outbreak’s investigation and response across the affected states.
“The EOC is currently supporting state ministries of health in their response to the outbreak through active case finding, epidemiological investigation and contact tracing.
“Measures have been put in place to ensure effective sample collection and testing to enable laboratory confirmation.
“Risk communication activities have been heightened to advise the public on preventive measures. All 36 states and the FCT have been notified for preparedness,” he said.
The disease outbreak has already started taking a toll in the social space as Bayelsa residents have been avoiding handshakes and hugs in public places. This was consequent upon the advice of the Commissioner for Health, Ebitimitula Etebu, to members of the public to wash hands frequently and maintain a higher level of personal hygiene to curtail the spread of the disease.
We call for an urgent action at all levels to halt the spread of the disease. At the individual level, in the home front, and at work places, there must be deliberate and sustained actions to tackle the deadly virus head on. Life, it is said, is for the living. All states and the federal government must walk their talk. They should take the virus seriously and take proactive measures to curtail its spread while a lasting solution is found. We must learn from, and consolidate on our Ebola experience. The Federal Ministry of Health must work in concert with affected state governments to tackle the Monkeypox virus the Ebola way before it gets out of hand. In 2016, Nigeria had been Ebola-free after it narrowly avoided being sucked into the escalation of the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever outbreak which devastated its neighbours, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone resulting in the loss of over 11,000 lives. That globally acclaimed national action should be deployed against the Monkeypox virus now.