A viral disease, monkeypox, has broken out in Yenagoa, Bayelsa capital with no fewer than 11 people under medical surveillance at a state hospital.
It was learnt that a medical doctor and 10 persons suspected to be infected with the monkeypox virus had been quarantined in an isolation centre at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital Okolobiri in Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state.
The isolation centre was created by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and the epidemiological team of the state’s Ministry of Health to control the spread of the virus.
The NCDC and the epidemiological team were said to be tracing 49 other persons, who had been in contact with persons infected with the virus.
The state Commissioner for Health, Ebitimitula Etebu, confirmed the development on Wednesday adding that samples of the virus had been sent to the World Health Organisation 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 noticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequent outbreaks occurred in the West African region.
The commissioner explained that the virus has the Central African and the West African types. He said that the West African type is milder and has 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, 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 monkey 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 monkeypox. But every bush animals such as rats, squirrels, antelopes are involved. So, the secretions from particularly dead animals are highly contagious,” Mr. Etebu said.
He listed the symptoms of monkeypox as severe headache, fever, back pains amongst other symptoms, noting that most worrisome of all the signs were rashes bigger than those caused by chickenpox.
The commissioner said the rashes are usually very discomforting and usually spread to the whole body of infected persons.
“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 11 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 way of radio programmes, jingles and fliers. So the NCDC has mobilised fully to Bayelsa State. We are on top the situation,” Mr. Etebu said.