By Maria Famakinwa
The recent reported outbreak of monkeypox in seven states across the country (Bayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun and Cross Rivers) has continued to generate reactions among Nigerians who are calling on the Federal Government to take pro-active measures in order to prevent its further spread to other states.
Monkeypox, according to findings, is a relatively rare disease that was first detected in monkeys in Africa in 1958 and resembles smallpox in terms of the skin lesions (Pox). It is a viral disease that is majorly transmitted from animals to humans by direct contact, person-to person transfer, contact with the animal lesions or body fluids among others.
The Minister for Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, recently said that there was no known treatment and no preventive vaccines for now to control the monkeypox virus as he advised the public to be at alert and avoid crowded places as much as possible, to be on the safer side.
His words: “The virus was mild and there was no known treatment and no preventive vaccines. Hence, the public should be on the alert and avoid crowded places. Investigation is still on-going and our partners are working with us on this reported outbreak while the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) team in Bayelsa state would give support”.
Prof Adewole added that monkeypox could not be confirmed until laboratory investigations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), referral laboratory in Dakar, Senegal says so. He assured that monkeypox was milder and had no record of mortality.
“The symptoms include headache, fever, back pains and in advanced cases, rashes bigger than those caused by chickenpox. Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should immediately report to the nearest health facility, while health workers are advised to maintain a high index of suspicion and observe safety precautions. So, people should avoid eating dead animals, bush meat and particularly bush monkeys.”
Sharing similar view, the National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that the Federal Ministry of Health, through the NCDC was supporting the affected states to ensure that the outbreak is brought under control and to limit further spread.
“NCDC has activated an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), to coordinate the outbreak investigation and response across the affected states. The EOC is currently supporting states, Ministries of Health in their response to the outbreak through active cases finding, epidemiological investigation and contact tracing.
“Measures have been put in place to ensure effective sample collection and testing for laboratory confirmation. Risk communication activities have been heightened to advise the public on preventive measures. All 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been notified for preparedness.”
Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro, has urged residents across the state to be calm as he assured them that necessary measures have been put in place in case of any eventuality.
He added that though, there are reported cases in neighbouring states, Ondo State is still free of monkeypox, so there should be no cause for alarm.
Dr. Adegbenro who disclosed that the disease was first discovered in the Republic of Congo after the elimination of smallpox, explained that the infection is transmitted by monkeys, squirrels and other animals and in the same class as chickenpox and smallpox.
Some of the symptoms according to him, include severe headache, fever, sore throat, body and backache as well as rashes all over the body. “Incubation period is between 6-16 days and its antidote is personal and environmental hygiene”.
The Health Commissioner appealed to residents to abstain from bush meat for now, ensure that meats are thoroughly cooked before eating and be watchful so that any suspected case is immediately reported to the nearest hospital.
“The Government is combat ready and on top of the situation as its Emergency Preparedness and Surveillance teams both at the State and Local Government Areas (LGAS) have swung into action.
“Other proactive measures put in place include provision of isolation wards in all State Specialists Hospitals in the state, large scale sentitisation and public enlightenment in print , electronic and social media”.
A civil servant, Mr Lasisi Idowu, described monkeypox as alien to many citizens of the country and urged the three tiers of government to embark on aggressive sensitization in order to educate the masses better on what they should understand about the disease which he said will go a long way to prevent its spread.
His words: “The monkeypox disease is strange to many of us. If not for the pictures of monkeypox victims on different newspapers and television, many like me will not believe it.
“The earlier we address it the better. I could remember that during the outbreak of Ebola in the country, the local, state and federal governments seized every available opportunity to sensitize the masses and the awarness was high.
“The same method should be employed to tackle outbreak of monkeypox in the country, so that it will not spread to other states.
“People should maintain good hygiene by washing their hands regularly and also avoid hand-shaking for now because the pictures of those that are already infected with the disease is scary and according to what I read, there is no vaccine for it for now. So, people must be very careful of what they eat as we have been told to avoid bush meat, especially monkey for now”
In his opinion, Mr Nnamdi Nwanchukwu, a businessman, wants the Federal Government to consult countries that had experienced monkeypox in the past in order to gather experiences and modalities on the best way out of the fast spreading monkeypox.
He also appealed to the Federal Government to hire some medical experts from those countries that had experienced monkeypox, so that they will be able to treat the victims of the disease in our country.
“Experience still remains the best teacher, since there are countries whose citizens were once affected with the same monkeypox, it is better to seek for their support for those who are already affected across the country to be treated.
“This will also help our medical doctors to gain more experience from them as it will provide them an opportunity to share their knowledge. This is the best way of preventing the spread of the disease.”
Though, we were made to understand that it is not deadly yet, no one will like to associate with whosoever is a victim. This means that one can be prevented from moving about or prevented from providing for one’s daily bread.
The Federal Government should please involve the medical experts with experience on how to tackle monkeypox. This will help to prevent its spread.