By Samuel Oyadongha, By Dennis Udoma & Emmanuel Ayungbe
UYO—RESIDENTS of Akwa Ibom State were, weekend, gripped with apprehension after the state government announced the outbreak of the dreaded Monkey Pox disease in the state, making it the third state in the Niger Delta region, following earlier reports of outbreak in Bayelsa and Rivers states.
This came as the Federal Government described as fake and sinister the report that the outbreak of Monkey Pox in some parts of the country resulted from the alleged free medical care by the government in the affected areas.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Nigerians should disregard the report which, apparently, was being spread by some unscrupulous persons to fit into a sinister agenda.
He said: “The Federal Government has not conducted any free medical service or care in either Bayelsa or Rivers state, as alleged in the fake report being circulated. So that could not have been the cause of the outbreak of Monkey Pox in both states.
“Monkey Pox is a virus found only in monkeys and it is rare in human beings. It belongs to the same family as Chicken Pox and Smallpox. It is suspected that someone may have contacted it by eating monkey meat, thus triggering the current outbreak.”
He assured that no effort will be spared in curtailing the spread of the disease.
Akwa Ibom Commissioner
Meanwhile in Uyo, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, while disclosing the outbreak during an interview with newsmen in Uyo, said one case has already been confirmed and that the victim had been isolated.
According to him, two other suspected cases were being monitored by medical personnel, explaining that “the viral ailment is borne by wild animals, especially Monkeys, and can be contacted through bodily contact with infected persons.
Dr. Ukpong, while warning residents of Uyo to eschew bush meats, also advised the people to take precautionary measures by imbibing personal hygiene such as hand-washing, avoiding indiscriminate handshake and physical contacts.
A resident and medical personnel in the metropolis, who craved anonymity, expressed worry over the outbreak of the disease, saying that government should wake up to arrest the situation by ensuring urgent intervention in all aspects of healthcare delivery.
She said if urgent measures are taken, the outbreak can be controlled.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, has also corroborated his Health counterpart by warning the residents to avoid crowded places, as relevant agencies have been alerted to put adequate medical measures in place to deal with emergencies.
He said: “We have recorded one confirmed case of Monkey Pox, while two other cases are still under investigation. The good news is that all these cases have been quarantined.
“Again, the blood samples of quarantined suspected cases have been sent for confirmation. Confirmation requires the highest level of laboratory sample test which is not available in the state.
“However, there is no cause for panic because the era of hand sanitisers are here and there is nothing for anybody to panic. People should wash their hands regularly, maintain the highest sanitary condition as well as avoid eating bush meats.”
Meanwhile, to arrest the spread of the viral Monkey Pox disease, Bayelsa State Government has intensified efforts at public enlightenment and civic engagement.
Therefore, the government called on residents of the state to report all suspected cases of the disease by using the following hotlines, 08066987752 and 08035474676 to get the attention of its rapid response team.
The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, in a statement yesterday, said the swift sensitisation campaign embarked upon by his ministry on radio with translations in all the local dialects in the state will be sustained.
According to him, the ministry had commenced sensitisation campaign and advocacy visits to communities in the state on the need to reassure the people of government’s intervention and activities in curbing further spread of the disease.
While giving an update of the situation, he disclosed that the government had stopped further spread of the disease, noting that out of the number of those affected and quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, NDUTH, Okolobiri, many were already showing signs of recovery.
Iworiso-Markson explained that two of the index cases and the doctor affected by the disease had fully recovered and discharged, expressing happiness that so far no death had been recorded.
According to him, “to further allay the fears and reassure Bayelsans of governments’ effort in curbing the disease, let me make it clear that we are on top of the situation. However, it is important for people to take note of the fact that prevention is better than cure.
“Hence, they are required to always wash their hands, avoid monkeys, bush meat and dead animals as well as be on the lookout for symptoms, which often manifests as various stages of rash and an intense weakness of the body, severe pains, among other things.”
Resident abandon bush meat
Meanwhile, the fear of the disease has forced many residents to shun bush meat consumption.
Though the government has said it has contained the spread of the disease, bush meat vendors said people have stopped patronising them since the outbreak of Monkey Pox.
Akpan Jones, a bush meat seller along the Onuebum-Otuokpoti Road in Ogbia Local Government Area of the state, lamented that sales have been poor in the last couple of days.
His words: “I was happy when I heard on radio that the disease has been contained, but people have continued to avoid buying bush meat. I believe they are afraid because of the government warning that monkeys and other bush meat consumption should be avoided for now.
“Pictures of persons said to be infected with Monkey Pox disease being circulated on internet are also discouraging them.
“I don’t know how long I have to wait until the problem is over. I have to return to my old palm tapping business to cater for my family.”