By Sola Ogundipe
Nigerians have been urged to remain calm even as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, confirmed 12 cases of suspected Monkey Pox in Bayelsa State, with 32 close contacts of the cases placed under watch.
Disclosing this in a statement, National Coordinator/CEO of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said all the cases were currently receiving appropriate medical care and no death had been recorded, but called for high index of suspicion among health workers.
According to Ihekweazu, “On September 22, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, was notified of a case of suspected Monkey Pox. The case was identified in an 11-year-old male patient, who was presented to the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, NDUTH, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Subsequently, 11 other cases were identified.
“All the cases are currently receiving appropriate medical care. All the patients are improving clinically and there have been no deaths. As at October 1, 32 close contacts of the cases have been identified, advised appropriately and are being monitored.
“A Rapid Response Team from NCDC was immediately deployed to support the Bayelsa State Government in the investigations and public health response to the outbreak.”
According to the NCDC boss, health care workers are strongly advised to practice universal precautions while handling patients and/or body fluids at all times, while all suspected cases should be reported to the Local Government Area or State Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers.
Minister calls for calm
Meanwhile, calling for calm, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said health facilities in Bayelsa State are on the alert, saying patients suspected of having Monkey Pox have been quarantined, while supportive treatments are being offered to the victims.
According to the Minister, “investigation is still ongoing and our partners are working with us on this reported outbreak, while the NCDC team in Bayelsa State would give support.”
Adewole said although Monkey Pox could not be confirmed until laboratory investigations by World Health Organisation, WHO, referral laboratory in Dakar, Senegal says so, the disease was milder and had no record of mortality.
He said common symptoms include headache, fever, back pains and in, advanced cases, rashes bigger than those caused by Chicken Pox, noting that “anyone with symptoms of Monkey Pox should immediately report to the nearest health facility, while health workers are advised to maintain a high index of suspicion and observe safety precautions.”
He said the virus was mild and there was no known treatment and no preventive vaccines, hence the public should be at alert and avoid crowded places as much as possible.
He advised the public to avoid eating dead animals, bush meat and particularly bush monkeys and said people should be supportive of public health authorities and avoid self-medication.
Monkey Pox is a relatively rare disease transmitted primarily from animals to humans with limited subsequent person-to-person transmission. The last reported case in Nigeria was in the 1970s.
The disease is primarily a zoonotic infection (transmitted from animals to humans) with limited subsequent person-to-person transmission. The most common animal hosts are squirrels, rats and sometimes, monkeys.
The Monkey Pox virus can cause an illness with symptoms of generalised vesicular skin rash, fever and painful jaw swelling. In previous outbreaks, it led to death in about one to 10 percent of infected cases.
There is no specific medicine to treat the disease, but intensive supportive care helps patients to recover fully.
Prevention includes avoiding contact with animals that are sick or found dead in areas where Monkey Pox occurs.
Members of the public are advised to always wash hands with soap and water after contact with animals or when caring for sick relatives or soiled beddings.