The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has called for calm on the reported suspected cases of monkey pox disease in Bayelsa State. Speaking in his office on Thursday, Adewole said the health facilities in the state had been placed on alert, the patients suspected of having monkey pox quarantined, while supportive treatments were being offered to the victims. He informed the public that monkey pox was a viral illness by a group of viruses that included chicken pox and small pox.

“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,” the minister assured. Adewole said although monkey pox could not be confirmed until laboratory investigations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) referral laboratory in Dakar, Senegal says so, he promised that monkey pox was milder and had no record of mortality. Mean while, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has deployed a Rapid Response Team to Bayelsa State to help investigate and manage the outbreak of monkey pox that has currently infected 12 persons in the state. It has also placed 32 close contacts of the cases under watch, while 12 persons, including an 11-year-old boy are currently receiving treatment in the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH), Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Stating this in a statement by the Centre yesterday, and obtained by THISDAY, the Chief Executive Officer, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the response team would support the state Department of Public Health and the state epidemiologists to respond to the outbreak. He said as the outbreak investigation and response continue, Bayelsa State Government has started an aggressive public enlightenment campaign to advise clinicians and the public on the symptoms of the disease and the steps required to manage the cases and to prevent further spread, adding that NCDC has also collected appropriate clinical samples from the cases and they were being analysed through the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja. The CEO said: “All the cases are currently receiving appropriate medical care. The patients are improving clinically and there have been no deaths. As at October 1, 2017, 32 close contacts of the cases have been identified, advised appropriately and are being monitored.” Monkey pox infection is a relatively rare disease that has previously been reported in Nigeria in the 1970s. It is primarily a zoonotic infection; that is it is transmitted primarily from animals to humans, with limited subsequent person-to-person transmission Ihekweazu said: “The most common animal hosts are squirrels, rats and sometimes, monkeys. The virus can cause an illness with the following symptoms; a generalised vesicular skin rash, fever, and painful jaw swelling. In previous outbreaks, it has led to death in about one to 10 per cent of infected cases. Although there is no specific medicine to treat the disease, when intensive supportive care is provided most patients recover fully. Measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkey pox virus include avoiding contact with the animals listed above; especially animals that are sick or found dead in areas where monkey pox occurs. The public is advised to always wash hands with soap and water after contact with animals or when caring for sick relatives humans or soiled beddings. “Nigerians are advised to remain calm and supportive of public health authorities; avoid self-medication and report to the nearest health facility if feeling unwell or notice any of the above symptoms in anyone around you.” He advised healthcare workers to practice universal precautions while handling patients and/or body fluids at all times. “They are also urged to be alert, be familiar with the symptoms and maintain a high index of suspicion.”

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