The Bayelsa Government is investigating suspected cases of monkeypox outbreak in its communities, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, has said.
Etebu spoke in Yenagoa on Wednesday following reports that some 11 persons, including a medical doctor, had been placed on surveillance in Yenagoa.
Those with the suspected cases had been quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital ( NDUTH ) , Okolobiri, Yenagoa Local Government Area.
The centre was established by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control ( NCDC ) and the epidemiological team of the state Ministry of Health to control the spread of the virus.
NAN also learnt that NCDC and the epidemiological team were tracing 49 persons, who were in contact with persons suspected to have been infected.
Etebu said that samples of the virus had been sent to the World Health Organisation laboratory in Dakar for confirmation.
He described monkeypox as a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include chickenpox and smallpox.
The commissioner said the first case was noticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequent outbreaks in West Africa.
He said the virus had the Central African and the West African types but that the West African type was milder and had no records 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.
“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.
“The source is usually all animals. It was first seen in monkeys and that is why it is called monkey pox.
“But every bush animal, such as rats, squirrels, antelopes are involved. So, the secretions from particularly dead animals are highly contagious.. Etebu said.
He listed the symptoms of monkeypox as severe headache, fever, back pain, among others.
Etebu said that most worrisome of all the signs were rashes bigger than those caused by chickenpox.
The commissioner said the rashes were usually very discomforting and 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 and after that the people who are neighbours and families started 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 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 centre 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 mobilised virtually every arsenal at our disposal in terms of sensitising the general public and making them aware by radio programmes, jingles and fliers.
“So the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has mobilised fully to Bayelsa State. We are on top the situation.” Etebu said.