Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
The fatality figure from the yet-to-be-detected disease that has, in the last two weeks ravaged the communities of Ute-Okpu and Idumesa in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State, has risen to at least 30.
There were reports last weekend that no fewer than 15 persons between 18 and 25 years had reportedly died in the affected area, prompting a visit last Sunday by a team of medical experts, including the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, and representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The health commissioner, who disclosed that medical officials from his ministry had already visited the community to collect samples for necessary clinical tests, said: “Hemorrhagic fever possibly from substance abuse” was suspected, considering the age bracket of those that had died.
However, it was gathered that some of the victims vomited blood before their death, but others were said to have complained of general fatigue, headache and feverish condition.
Most the victims reportedly died before reaching the hospital while some actually died in the hospital.
A mother, Mrs. Monica Emeke, who lost two of her children- a young man, 26, and a girl, 22, at Ute Okpu, expressed deep concern about the rate at which deaths occurred in the community, as five persons were lost to the strange ailment in a one day.
There have been rumours of several deaths from similar circumstances in neighbouring villages, including Ute Erumu.
Nevertheless, the state government has assured the people that it was on top of the situation and was ready to do everything possible to unravel the cause of the mysterious death as well as curb it.
“Delta State Government has received information on seemingly mysterious deaths in Ute Okpu and Idumesa communities of Ika North East LGA of the state which prompted the state Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, to direct the state Ministry of Health to immediately investigate these deaths, identify the cause/causes and effect containment measures,” the health commissioner said.
Ononye, who spoke at the palace of the Ute-Okpu monarch, HRM Obi Solomon Chukwuka I, also advised members of the community and residents of the state to observe good hygiene as dry season approaches by properly covering their food, cutting grasses around their surroundings, eliminating rats in their houses as well as continuing to observe the COVID-19 safety guide lines especially hand washing with soap and running water.
At the palace of the traditional ruler, the health commissioner said the governor had given the directive to upgrade the Comprehensive Health Centre in Ute-Okpu to a full-fledged hospital.
However, he advised members of the community and residents of the state to make observance of good personal and environmental hygiene their watchword.
On his part, the Delta State Epidemiologist, Dr. Richard Ikwuogu, said this office sent some officers to the community immediately the information about a strange deadly disease reached the health ministry, adding that the “active case search” that commenced the previous day was still continuing.
He said his team has visited the families of the affected persons in the community and also the cases in the hospital in Umunede, interviewed them and collected their samples for proper medical investigation.
Although viral hemorrhagic fever or even drug intoxication had been suspected, “the outcome of the test on samples collected will give clear information on the disease and that will determine the next line of action,” Ikwuogu said.
While noting that the government’s quick intervention through the visit has brought relief and hope to his people that the disease will be curbed, he said the government could be rest assured of the community’s co-operation.
In company of the commissioner were the Zonal Medical Director, Agbor Zone; Zonal Hospital Administrator Agbor; State Epidemiologist; State Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer (DSNO); Executive Secretary (Health) Ika North East Local Government Area as well as the council’s DSNO and Health Educator as well as two representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) among others.