Palpable fear and tension have gripped Nigerians following the reported spread of Monkey Pox virus. With claim that no fewer than 31 cases have been reported since the virus first manifested in an 11-year-old boy in Bayelsa last month, panic has gripped Nigerians, as reports has it that the virus has spread to at least seven states.
The states which are currently under red alert include Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Cross River, according to the National Coordinator of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.
Monkey Pox is a rare and infectious disease caused by monkey virus, transmitted from animals to human and with symptoms similar to those of smallpox.
Reports from Enugu said residents were apprehensive following news in the social media that a case has been recorded in the state. The report claimed that the victim had been taken to the ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Fintan Ekochin, initially confirmed that his ministry had collected and sent a sample to the NCDC, but later made a U-turn and denied it.
“There is no outbreak of Monkey Pox in Enugu, not at all. Nothing has happened, the Enugu State Ministry of Health has a surveillance team distributed across the 17 local governments whose job is to look out for diseases and they are on duty every day. Since last year, since Ebola till today they have been on duty. They look out for Yellow Fever, Lassa Fever, Ebola, including Cholera. Any kind of disease and they make reports on each of them, so they have no report of outbreak of Monkey Pox in Enugu State,” he said.
Ekochin also argued that of all the reported cases Monkey Pox only one has so far been confirmed in the country.
“Only one patient confirmed in Bayelsa. All the other ones heard about are suspected cases; you must make this separation, never mix the two. We have no confirmed case of Monkey Pox in Enugu State,” he explained.
He, however, said that good hygiene was the best way to fight the Monkey Pox virus.
“Basic hygiene with our clothes, workplace, kitchen, food, inter-personal relationships, hygiene with handling animals as your pets or as your animal husbandry, agricultural products, hygiene in all these areas. That is the key word,” he said. He advised the people not to panic.
“The so-called Monkey Pox is caused by a virus; this virus is a brother to Chicken Pox, who is afraid of Chicken Pox? I don’t know of anyone who is afraid of Chicken Pox. It is there; it comes in seasons depending on the weather and temperature and affects a lot of children. It even affects adults at times, especially pregnant women because the immunity is lower. So, Chicken Pox is even a bigger disease to worry about than Monkey Pox.
“The virus that causes Monkey Pox is very old, Monkey Pox is an old disease; the last reported case was in the 70s. So, it is not a new disease that has made doctors and pharmacists very confused. It is an old virus. Fortunately, we have not had it for some years, but unfortunately, we have one confirmed case in Nigeria right now,” he said.
Ekiti State has recorded two suspected cases. The state government said the victims, who were discovered in Okemesi Ekiti, a border town with Osun State in Ekiti West Local Government, have been quarantined and their blood samples taken to Abuja for laboratory tests.
According to the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Modupe Alade, who spoke during a press conference to herald the third anniversary of Fayose’s government, “we have two cases at Okemesi Ekiti. Tests are still being carried out. Until it is confirmed, we can’t come out with any official statement.”
Anxiety has also pervaded Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, following rumour that a woman was bitten by a domestic monkey, which was one of the domestic pets in her compound.
“The victim did not take the monkey bite serious until when she started feeling some pains and discomfort in her body,” a source said.
“When she got to the health centre, one of the nurses who attended to her thought it was a whitlow and wanted to operate it but there was no surgical blade in the health facility. It was brought to the notice of the matron, who noticed that the affected part was more of a bite than whitlow. The lady then revealed that she was bitten by a monkey they rare.”
The source noted that the matron immediately referred the case to the state Specialist Hospital, Akure, for further treatment.
But attempts to reach the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro through calls proved abortive.
This is even as the Osun State Government said it has put in place proactive measured to prevent the spread of the virus
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Kusamotu, said in Osogbo that the three quarantine centres which locations he failed to mention for sensitive reasons, were ready for service.
He revealed that emergency phone numbers had been released to the public to report any case of the virus.
He added that government had put in place primary health care centres and trained some staff who had been mandated to refer any victim to the three quarantine centres.
Kusamotu recalled the proactive measures taken by the state during the outbreak of Ebola and assured that government would take more proactive measures in preventing the virus.
He added that government had begun awareness campaigns in both rural and urban areas to sensitise the people of the state on the dangers of the epidemic as a part of efforts on prevention.
But the Ogun State government denied any case of the viral disease.
The Commissioner for Health, Babatunde Ipaye, blamed an “overzealous” staff for the listing of the state.
According to Ipaye, the officer from the state hospital, Ijebu Ode, had noticed skin lesion on a patient who was at the hospital for another primary reason.
He explained that the distribution of the rashes on the patient was never suggestive of Monkey Pox, adding that no due process was completed before the case was reported.
“It was very surprising for the state Commissioner for Health and the Chief Epidemiologist of the state to hear that Ogun State was listed. We have not incidented any confirmed case of Monkey Pox in the state. Ogun state doesn’t have a single case.
“Yes, there was an overzealous officer of the ministry who saw somebody with skin lesion at the state hospital, Ijebu Ode and unfortunately called the Federal Ministry of Health and incidented a suspected case.
“Any patient in the category of that patient that was incidented cannot be considered as a suspected case because the patient has another primary problem that can give rise to skin lesion, that is not a suspected case.
“Further questioning was even very revealing that the skin lesion the patient had was not even suggestive of Monkey Pox but more of another skin lesion and the screening revealed that it negates the entire report itself. We are not averse to reporting one, if there is a case, and we are not willing to cover up a case but we must also not send people panicking for things that we do not have.”
Notwithstanding, the British government promised to assist Nigerian government.
Speaking in Ilorin, Kwara State, the Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils, said: “British Government is supporting the government of Nigeria in addressing health, education and basic services in general and to ensure that the health of the population here grows from strength to strength. We are monitoring the situation very closely with the World Health Organisation and we will be reviving our support as and when we go.
“We will be monitoring the situation closely and will provide through the Department for International Development about 400 million pounds in aid to Nigeria every year in support of poverty reduction, health and education. Our support is wide, broad and deep and, of course, we cannot respond to every priority here and I hope the government itself, as well as the state governments will take responsibility and invest in health solutions to protect their people.”