On Thursday, 5th October, 2017, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) released a press statement confirming an outbreak of a new contagious viral disease, Monkey Pox Virus in Nigeria.
The press statement which was signed by the National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated that they were first notified of a suspected case of the disease on 22nd September, 2017 . This was present in an 11 year old male patient at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Since then till date, 11 other cases have been identified with the disease while 32 close contacts of the cases have been advised and monitored. So far, there has been no deaths as all cases are receiving medical care and are improving clinically.
Monkeypox infection is zoonotic disease – that is, a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. However, human-to-human transmission may also occur. Animals which transmit this disease include monkeys, rats and squirrels. Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus (the same genus with smallpox and cowpox virus) in the family Poxviridae. It was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries. The only time the disease has been identified outside Africa was during an outbreak in the United States in 2003. The disease is relatively rare in Nigeria and has only been previously reported in the 1970s until now.
Transmission of monkeypox virus occurs when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. Animal-to-human transmission may occur by bite or scratch, bush meat preparation, direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, or indirect contact with lesion material. Human-to-human transmission may occur through large respiratory droplets which require prolonged face-to-face contact. Direct or indirect contact with infected humans may also facilitate transmission to another human.
In humans, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to smallpox with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion, which progress to the appearance of rashes and skin lesions that include macules, papules, vessicles, pustules and scabs. The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not. The illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks and causes death in about 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease. The disease has no specific medicine for treatment, but when intensive supportive care is provided most patients recover fully.
To prevent transmission and infection of humans with monkeypox virus (especially in susceptible environments), it is important to adhere to the following;
- Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
- Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
- Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- For health workers, use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.
Currently, a Rapid Response Team from NCDC has been deployed to support the Bayelsa State Government in the investigations and public health response to the outbreak. Also, the Bayelsa State Government has started an aggressive public enlightenment campaign to advise clinicians and the public on the symptoms of the disease and the steps required to manage the cases and to prevent further spread.
In light of the Monkey virus disease outbreak, the NCDC is advising all Nigerians to remain calm and supportive of public health authorities as needed. The also advice Nigerians to avoid self-medication and to ensure that people report to the nearest health facility if they feel unwell and notice any of the above symptoms in their body or for anyone around them. The are also advising all health care workers to practice universal precautions while handling patients and/or body fluids at all times. This is equally applicable to all humans and animal health workers alike, even as they are equally urged to be alert, to be familiar with the symptoms while suspected cases should be reported to the Local Government Area or State Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers.
The following contact information has been provided for inquiries or reportage on this disease;
NCDC toll-free number: 0800-970000-10