The monkeypox viral disease has spread to Rivers and Akwa Ibom states even as the authorities in Bayelsa state battle to contain it five days after the outbreak.
The spread has also generated anxiety in other neighbouring states in the South-South and the South-East owing to the usual inter-state human and vehicular movements.
This is despite assurances from the authorities at the federal and state levels of frantic efforts to contain the disease, just as it allayed fears of possible high mortality rate often associated with some epidemics.
Akwa Ibom State has recorded one confirmed case while two other cases are still under investigation. Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital on Saturday.
According to Dr Ukpong, who broke the news of the arrival of the deadly scourge in the state, “the era of avoiding excessive handshake and body contact is here again. We should at the moment re-awaken the continued emphasis on regular hand washing and avoiding the consumption of bush meat at the moment.”
Confirming the breakout, Akwa Ibom State information commissioner, Mr Charles Udoh said: “Monkeypox currently has no treatment and no vaccine. It looks like Smallpox but the rashes are larger while the disease is milder, adding, “we will provide more information in subsequent releases.”
Meanwhile, the monkeypox has begun to take a heavy toll on the social and the economic life of Bayelsa.
Owing to the contagious nature of the boil-like viral infection, most residents in the state have become extra-careful of the water they drink.
Most residents have stopped buying sachet water from Agbura axis of the state in Yenagoa Local Government where the epidemic reportedly broke out.
A particular sachet water packaging company (name withheld) in Agbura, has shut down operation, owing to non-patronage as their numerous customers now buys sachet water from other communities in the state.
The situation has created a short supply of sachet water in Agbura and other parts of Yenagoa with high demand from population of low income earner who could not purchase carton of bottled waterof popular brands.
A respondent, Madam Ikienzi Aziba, a petty trader in Agbura lamented that her numerous customers had deserted her shop, afraid that the area was where the first index case was recorded.
Similarly, she noted that business had become bad, as people prefer to buy household needs from shops in communities where no case was reported.
Also, the continuous jingles running on the state radio warning residents not to consume bush meat, antelopes, and monkey had affected operators of restaurants, particularly for fear of contracting monkeypox.
Madam Agnes Esther, whose beer parlour and bush meat restaurant is a popular rendezvous, has continued to count her losses saying, “business has been very bad, my customers have stopped coming; residents are now scared of eating bush meat; and is gradually throwing one out of business.
Some food vendors have decided to go into other businesses.
Madam Ebieride Patience, a food vendor, our as a result of the fear of contracting the disease through consumption of unknown sources of meat, residents have resorted to either packaging their food from home to office or simply going on snacks for lunch.
Because of fear of contracting the disease, markets in the state are no longer crowded with customers purchasing meat as it was prior to the outbreak of the monkeypox in the state.
An accountant with the Ministry of Mineral Resources, who preferred anonymity, told our correspondent that his love for meat had reduced, even as he noted that since government warning ‘saturated’ the airwaves, he had resorted to eating fish.
When asked for update on the 47 persons quarantined over the disease, the state Commissioner for Health, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu said the number of victims had increased from 11 to 13 and contact index increased to 50, even as he posited that the victims, including a 17-year-old boy are responding to treatment and were at various stages of recovery.
He also called on the people of the state to report any person with rashes, particularly boil-like rashes which constituted a strong symptom of the disease.
He said further that government was proactive, and had set up a committee “Quick Response Search Medical Team’’ to go into the local governments, communities and fishing settlement to control the spread of the disease.
Etebu, however, reiterated that government was prepared to cater for the medical bills of all those that had showed symptom, even as he appealed to residents with the rashes to voluntarily submit themselves to the government for medical care.
CDC working hard
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has appealed to Nigerians to remain calm as the Centre is working very hard to control the monkeypox outbreak in Bayelsa State.
Ihekweazu, who spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Saturday, in Abuja, assured that the centre was taking all the required steps to manage the cases and prevent further spread.
He said that a Rapid Response Team (RRT) from NCDC was immediately deployed to support the Bayelsa State government in the investigations and public health response.
Ihekweazu said that of the 13 reported cases, only four are still receiving treatment, while the discharged patients are doing well, with no death reported.
He said that if cases are detected early and well managed, the chances are that they will survive. “It is a self-limiting illness, which means that there is no specific treatment for the virus,” he noted.
Ihekweazu said that “doctors and healthcare providers have been advised on what to do; the key thing is to bring in patients with characteristic rash on their face which is what stands monkeypox out from other diseases.
“Monkeypox looks like an extreme case of chickenpox, but a little bit more severe and the disease looks and sounds a lot worse than it actually is.
“The virus circulate in a few more animals apart from monkeys like rats, squirrels and bush meat, and the period of increased risk is at the point of killing, touching or preparing them.
“The people at risk are those who kill, touch or cook the animals, that is, those who come in contact with the animals and don’t use protective measure or wash their hands after wards.
“Once the virus gets into the human population , then there is a risk of human to human transmission, which is what has happened in Bayelsa, but the first contact is from animal to human,” he said.
Ihekweazu also explained that monkeypox infection is a relatively rare disease that has previously been reported in Nigeria in the 1970s.
He said that it is primarily a zoonotic infection that is transmitted primarily from animals to humans, with limited subsequent person-to-person transmission.
Ihekweazu further explained that there is no serious aftermath of the disease except staying with the scare of the rash for quite a while.