Results of laboratory tests to confirm or refute the outbreak of monkeypox in Nigeria will be out on Friday, the national coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, has disclosed.
Mr. Ihekweazu made this known on Tuesday while responding to questions from members of the Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Disease.
The committee had invited him to tell them the current situation of monkeypox, a disease which broke out in Bayelsa State late last month.
While intimating the senators on the job done so far, Mr. Ihekweazu said there is no confirmation yet if the over 30 suspected cases in three states were monkeypox.
“We are confident that we have identified all the cases related to the issue in Bayelsa. We’ve sent samples from Bayelsa to the laboratory and we are expecting the result before the end of tomorrow (Friday) when we’ll be able to state categorically whether it is monkeypox or not.
“The risk in human is not actually in eating the meat, the risk is in preparing, killing it, cutting it and not properly washing your hands. Very few people die from the disease and we have not recorded any death. It is under control. We don’t think all reported cases in other states are monkeypox but we have a responsibility to investigate all the cases.”
On why it is taking time to determine if the cases were monkeypox or not, Mr. Ihekweazu said that the country has no public laboratory capable of diagnosing the disease.
“We set up an emergency centre at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control where we are coordinating the entire response, getting information from states, advising them on what samples to collect and sending those samples to the laboratory we have in Nigeria and the one in Dakar where they are doing the diagnosis for us.
“Monkeypox is a very rare disease. It last occurred in Nigeria in the 70s. So, most laboratories don’t have the capacity to make this diagnosis. It is only one lab in Redeemers University that has capacity to do the diagnosis in Nigeria. The other lab in West Africa is in Dakar. So, we have split the samples, sent half to Redeemers and half to Dakar.
“At the moment we have 33 cases, 17 in Bayelsa, out of that 17, we think we may have monkeypox victims but we haven’t confirmed yet. Other cases across other states are most likely not monkeypox, but until we have the result, we can’t be very clear on that.”
The senators urged the NCDC boss to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure that provisions are made in the 2018 budget for establishment of such laboratories in each geo-political zone.
The lawmakers also mandated Mr. Ihekweazu to relate with the committee on a weekly basis to give update on situation of the disease and other outbreaks.