The spread of a new disease called monkeypox is disturbing and government must avoid its politicisation, writes Olawale Olaleye

The Monkeypox outbreak was first recorded in Bayelsa State. And since then, suspected cases of it have been reported in more than six other states, including the federal capital territory, Abuja, bringing the total number of suspected cases so far to about 33. The states currently with reported cases of the virus are Bayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun and Cross River, for now.

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said samples had been collected from each of the suspected cases for laboratory confirmation and results were still being awaited.

NCDC’s executive officer, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who gave an update on the development, said no deaths had been recorded so far as a result of the virus, adding that it remained unlikely that many of the suspected cases were actually monkey pox.

“All the suspected cases are currently receiving appropriate medical care and the patients are all improving clinically in their various states. The Federal Ministry of Health, through the NCDC, is supporting the affected states to ensure the outbreak is brought under control and to limit further spread.

“NCDC has activated an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) to coordinate the outbreak’s investigation and response across the affected states. The EOC is currently supporting state ministries of health in their response to the outbreak through active case finding, epidemiological investigation and contact tracing.

“Measures have been put in place to ensure effective sample collection and testing to enable laboratory confirmation. Risk communication activities have been heightened to advise the public on preventive measures. All 36 states and the FCT have been notified for preparedness,” he said.

Apart from Ekiti State with two new suspected cases, the case in Enugu State is somewhat different as tension reportedly gripped residents following an unconfirmed case of the disease at the State University Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu.

A female patient at the hospital was said to have shown signs of the disease as some strange pox were seen all over her face.

The discovery made other patients to panic as they feared the disease might have finally got to the state. But the state government had swiftly denied any such thing.
In the same spirit, the Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Health, state governments, local governments and community-based organisations to be proactive in containing the spread of the diseases. It also called for sustained enlightenment and education of citizens on efforts to take to reduce exposure to the virus.

The Senate resolution, however, followed a motion sponsored by Senator Ali Wakili (Bauchi South), who expressed worry that the unavailability of vaccines or specific treatment for the virus had caused panic amongst the Nigerian people.
It is therefore safe to say that both at the states and federal levels, efforts are still being made to halt the spread of the disease. Whilst government must not relent on these efforts as well as explore other options to keep the nation safe, the possibility of a descent to politics must be avoided otherwise the concerted initiative at arresting the situation would be jeopardised.

For instance, the allegations that the disease was introduced by the federal government through vaccination were a bit beneath logic and off all possibilities of what may have happened. Those who propounded this story and are selling it are not patriotic in their position, because the degeneration to political irrelevance is not in anyone’s interest.

Although the federal government had described as fake and sinister, the report that the disease resulted from a free medical care exercise it allegedly administered in some parts of the Niger Delta, the need to come together as a people to support each other at a time like this is very instructive in the interest of all.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said in a statement that Nigerians should disregard the report, adding that “The federal government has not conducted any free medical service or care in either Bayelsa or Rivers State, as alleged in the fake report being circulated. So, that could not have been the cause of the outbreak of Monkeypox in both states.

“Monkeypox is a virus found only in monkeys and it is rare in human beings. It belongs to the same family as Chickenpox and Smallpox. It is suspected that someone may have contacted it by eating monkey meat, thus triggering the current outbreak,” Mohammed said, explaining the side of the government.

As it is, the likelihood of a spread is worrisome and so, engaging in needless distraction through unfounded allegations is the last thing government wants to do. The need for a well-coordinated sensitisation, education and enlightenment of the people on this disease is also not debatable. Government must put its resources together and make this very health challenge go away once and for all.