No fewer than 10 people have been quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State after contracting a viral infection suspected to be monkeypox.
The patients were brought to an isolation center in the hospital which was created by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the epidemiological team of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health.
Our correspondent gathered that the NCDC and state Ministry of Health are tracing 49 people who were in contact with those infected by the virus.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Health, Ebitimitula Etebu, confirmed the development on Wednesday, adding that samples of the virus have been sent to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) laboratory in Dakar, Senegal for confirmation.
He described monkeypox as a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include chicken pox and smallpox, adding that the first case was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Subsequent outbreaks were recorded in West Africa.
The commissioner explained that there are two different types of the monkeypox virus, Central African and West African. The West African type is milder than the Central African type and has no recorded cases of mortality.
“Recently in Bayelsa, we noticed a suspected outbreak of monkeypox. It has not been confirmed. We have sent samples to the World Health Organisation reference laboratory in Dakar, Senegal.
“When that comes out we will be sure that it is confirmed. But from all indications, it points towards it.
“As the name implies, the virus was first seen in monkeys, but can also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes,” Dr. Etebu said, adding that the virus can be spread through the secretions of such animals.
He listed the symptoms of monkeypox as severe headache, fever, back pain, amongst other symptoms, noting that the most worrisome of all the signs are rashes bigger than those caused by chicken pox.
The commissioner said the rashes are usually very discomforting and usually spread to the whole body of an infected person.
“We noticed the first index case from Agbura, where somebody was purported to have killed and eaten a monkey. After that, the person’s family members and neighbors began developing the rashes.
“We have seen cases from as far as Biseni. We invited the NCDC together with our own epidemiological team from the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health. We have been able to trace most of the people who have come in contact with the patients.
"So far, we have 10 patients and we have created an isolation center at the NDUTH and most of them are on admission and we are following up the 49 cases that we are suspecting might come down with the illness. As a state we are taking care of all the expenses of all the isolated cases.
“The disease has an incubation period and it is also self-limiting in the sense that within two to four weeks, you get healed and it confers you with immunity for life.
“We have mobilized virtually every arsenal at our disposal in terms of sensitizing the general public and making them aware by radio program, jingles and fliers. So the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has mobilized fully to Bayelsa State. We are on top the situation,” Dr. Etebu said.