Monkeypox: FG Maps out Comprehensive Response as Disease Spreads to Rivers

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• Confirms 13 cases in Bayelsa, 3 suspected cases in Rivers • Health workers, patients’ family members mostly at risk

Abimbola Akosile in Lagos and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The federal government has mapped out a comprehensive strategy that would help stem the spread of Monkeypox, a new disease outbreak in the country, which has affected between 13 and 16 people in the two states of Bayelsa and Rivers.

This was confirmed saturday by the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Chikweazu, who told THISDAY that the government was collaborating with the state, local government and other relevant institutions to prevent further spread of the disease.

Ihekweazu said the NCDC had begun to increase its surveillance system across the country as well as list all the affected persons, daily monitoring their movements, development and improving the capacity of the healthcare laboratories as part of measures to check the spread of the disease.
“We are strengthening our surveillance system, get the list of all the contacts of patients, monitoring them daily and that way we are confident we are going to stop them. There will be one or two more cases most likely but I don’t think we will see an expanding outbreak.

“Over the past year, the NCDC has ramped up efforts to support the work we do in the country through the state health department and Local Government Disease Control. So, the awareness of Nigerians is very high about disease outbreak and we are also strengthening our laboratory capacity. I think in this area of the work that we do, there is developed architecture of prevention and response across the country right now,” he stated.

While assuring the people that the current measures being put in place would limit further spread of the disease, he however, acknowledged that there were three suspected cases in Rivers State in addition to the 13 confirmed in Bayelsa.

He said: “I don’t see a much wider spread, because the measures taken by the Bayelsa State government in collaboration with NCDC has been very great. There will be one or two more cases. People caring for sick patients and family members are mostly at risk and the critical thing, especially for health workers is to wear glove while family members should take them to hospital as soon as possible. If you have to touch them make sure you wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Together, we are strengthening surveillance

“The disease is not worse than it is and not as bad as it is made out to look. We have not had any fatality apart from the 13 cases so far reported (in Bayelsa). We don’t expect to have any fatalities as most of the patients have recovered except few.

Despite the very scary pictures circulating, my advice to Nigerians is to stay calm. This is not a disease they should be worried about as everything is being done in the local, state and national level to limit the spread of the disease outbreak.”

Ihekweazu however reiterated that the Centre was working very hard to control the spread of monkeypox in Bayelsa. He said a Rapid Response Team (RRT) from NCDC was immediately deployed to support the Bayelsa State government in the investigations and public health response.
“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 circulates 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.”

On his part, the Commissioner for Health in Rivers State, Prof. Princewill Chike has said the state government was observing the victims as they have been placed under surveillance. He noted that the victims were identified in Rumuolumeni, Eneka and Rumoimoi all in Obio/Akpor local government area, noting that the ministry had deployed every means to prevent the spread of the disease.