Fear grips Nigerians as monkey pox epidemic returns

Barely two years after Nigerians abstained from meat especially bush meat following an outbreak of monkey pox epidemic, they are again faced with fears and anxiety as a result of a fresh outbreak of the deadly virus, which has now spread to 10 states.

In September, 2017, human monkey pox re-emerged in Nigeria and rampaged till September 16, 2018,  39 years after the last reported case.

Akwa Ibom, its latest destination has reported 18 cases within days in the same local government area where it was reported in the state in 2018.

The state government yesterday announced the outbreak of the virus in Mkpat Enin local council area with a total of 18 suspected cases, out of which only one has been clinically confirmed.

The state commissioner for health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong who announced this at a press conference in Uyo on Friday, said results of five cases were still being awaited and that the 18 cases all reside within three communities of Ikot Akpaden, Ikot Enin and Ndon, all in Mkpat Enin council just like the 2018 incidents in the state, which occurred only in same local government area.

Ukpong said since the outbreak of the disease, the state ministry of health through its public health department had activated its infectious control procedure to control the epidemic and has successfully confined it to the affected local government so far.

He however said  the disease was present in the neighbouring states as such Akwa Ibom was still at risk of contracting new cases. “In Nigeria, as at October 24th, 93 suspected cases have been reported, 43 confirmed, only one death reported, and that was in Lagos state. Although 10 states are affected : Lagos, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom , Rivers , Imo, Enugu and Anambra states with a total number of 93 cases in the country, 59% are from two states: Delta, (28%), and Lagos (26%).

“Since the beginning of the outbreak in 2017, 176 confirmed cases were reported and nine deaths before the outbreak of this year. Monkey pox is a rare viral zoonotic infection, that is, an infection transmitted from animals to humans, that occurs sporadically, primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical forests. It is caused by monkey pox viruses, which also cause small pox and cow pox. Case fatality in outbreak has been between 1% and 10%, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.” Ukpong said

He advised the people to prevent contracting the disease by avoiding contact with animals that could harbour the virus including sick or dead animals in areas where monkey pox cases had occurred.

He also advised the people to avoid contact with any material that had been in contact with a sick animal, and to isolate potentially infected animal from other animals.

Other measures to take to prevent contracting the epidemic include quarantining of any animal that might have come in contact with an infected animal by handling them with standard precautions and observing for monkey pox symptoms for 30 days;  hand washing with soap and water after contact with infected animals; thoroughly cooking all animal products before eating; and regular hand washing after caring for or visiting sick people.

With the recent outbreak of monkey pox in Akwa Ibom state, some concerned Nigerians who spoke to Saturday Sun revealed that the government should curtail the spread of the disease to avoid mass panic and hysteria.

Mr. Wale Busari said no matter the outbreak of the virus, he won’t stop enjoying bush meat sauce, a delicacy he enjoys with some bottles of beer at weekends.

According to Busari who owns a farm on the outskirts of Lagos, he has told his workers to hunt and kill bush meat for him. He noted that the government should act fast to help stop the possible spread of the disease.

Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye said that Nigerians can take some important steps to curb the spread of the disease by limiting contact between primates, rodents and human beings. He said: “Nigerians should limit contact with infected people. Meat should be properly cooked so that even if the meat is infected with monkey pox, the virus can die.”

According to him, even if the disease is a treatable one, the end results could be fatal in some cases. He said that health care professionals should be on high alert to tackle the possible spread of the disease.

Mrs. Grace Obi said that she won’t come near bush meat until this blows over. Obi who said she was just hearing about the recent outbreak of the disease called on the government to act fast before it spreads beyond what they can handle.

According to her, even though there is a possibility of being infected as a lover of bush meat, she is not ready to give up what she loves eating. She said she would cook the meat well henceforth.

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