Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.

Palpable fear and tension have gripped Nigerians following the reported spread of Monkey Pox virus. With claim that no fewer than 31 cases have been reported since the virus first manifested in an 11-year-old boy in Bayelsa last month, panic has gripped Nigerians, as  reports has it that the virus has spread to at least seven states.

The states which are currently under red alert include Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Cross River, according to the National Coordinator of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.

Monkey Pox is a rare and infectious disease caused by monkey virus, transmitted from animals to human and with symptoms similar to those of smallpox.

Reports from Enugu said residents were apprehensive following news in the social media that a case has been recorded in the state. The report claimed that the victim had been taken to the ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Fintan Ekochin, initially confirmed that his ministry had collected and sent a sample to the NCDC, but later made a U-turn and denied it.

“There is no outbreak of Monkey Pox in Enugu, not at all. Nothing has happened, the Enugu State Ministry of Health has a surveillance team distributed across the 17 local governments whose job is to look out for diseases and they are on duty every day. Since last year, since Ebola till today they have been on duty. They look out for Yellow Fever, Lassa Fever, Ebola, including Cholera. Any kind of disease and they make reports on each of them, so they have no report of outbreak of Monkey Pox in Enugu State,” he said.

Ekochin also argued that of all the reported cases Monkey Pox only one has so far been confirmed in the country.

“Only one patient confirmed in Bayelsa. All the other ones heard about are suspected cases; you must make this separation, never mix the two. We have no confirmed case of Monkey Pox in Enugu State,” he explained.

He, however, said that good hygiene was the best way to fight the Monkey Pox virus.

“Basic hygiene with our clothes, workplace, kitchen, food, inter-personal relationships, hygiene with handling animals as your pets or as your animal husbandry, agricultural products, hygiene in all these areas. That is the key word,” he said.  He advised the people not to panic.

“The so-called Monkey Pox is caused by a virus; this virus is a brother to Chicken Pox, who is afraid of Chicken Pox? I don’t know of anyone who is afraid of Chicken Pox. It is there; it comes in seasons depending on the weather and temperature and affects a lot of children. It even affects adults at times, especially pregnant women because the immunity is lower. So, Chicken Pox is even a bigger disease to worry about than Monkey Pox.

“The virus that causes Monkey Pox is very old, Monkey Pox is an old disease; the last reported case was in the 70s. So, it is not a new disease that has made doctors and pharmacists very confused. It is an old virus. Fortunately, we have not had it for some years, but unfortunately, we have one confirmed case in Nigeria right now,” he said.

Ekiti State has recorded two suspected cases. The state government said the victims, who were discovered in Okemesi Ekiti, a border town with Osun State in Ekiti West Local Government, have been quarantined and their blood samples taken to Abuja for laboratory tests.

According to the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Modupe Alade, who spoke during a press conference to herald the third anniversary of Fayose’s government, “we have two cases at Okemesi Ekiti. Tests are still being carried out. Until it is confirmed,  we can’t come out with any official statement.”

Anxiety has also pervaded Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, following rumour that a woman was bitten by a domestic monkey, which was one of the domestic pets in her compound.

“The victim did not take the monkey bite serious until when she started feeling some pains and discomfort in her body,” a source said.

“When she got to the health centre, one of the nurses who attended to her thought it was a whitlow and wanted to operate it but there was no surgical blade in the health facility. It was brought to the notice of the matron, who noticed that the affected part was more of a bite than whitlow. The lady then revealed that she was bitten by a monkey they rare.”

The source noted that the matron immediately referred the case to the state Specialist Hospital, Akure, for further treatment.

But attempts to reach the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro through calls proved abortive.

This is even as the Osun State Government said it has put in place proactive measured to prevent the spread of the virus

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Kusamotu, said in Osogbo that the three quarantine centres which locations he failed to mention for sensitive reasons, were ready for service.

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