Link to an­i­mal king­dom

Weekly Trust - - News -

Judd-Leonard Okafor, Abuja & Doyin Ade­busuyi, Ado Ek­iti

The poxes: there’s small, there’s chicken. And now there’s mon­keyand it is scar­ing the liv­ing day­lights out of Nige­ri­ans. Don’t even men­tion cow­pox or horse pox. The first cases were dis­cov­ered in Bayelsa. On Septem­ber 22, health of­fi­cials there no­ti­fied the Nige­ria Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol of a strange ill­ness in an 11-yearold boy. That was at Niger Delta Univer­sity Teach­ing Hospi­tal, Ye­nagoa.

He had a skin rash sim­i­lar to small pox or chicken pox. It couldn’t pos­si­bly be ei­ther: chicken pox has a vac­cine and one in­fec­tion con­fers im­mu­nity; small pox has had a vac­cine since 1798.

The 11-year-old was part of the first two clus­ters of in­fec­tion among some six peo­ple. An­other clus­ter of five pa­tients in­clude a health worker who man­aged one of them.

A to­tal 11 other peo­ple with sim­i­lar symp­toms were iden­ti­fied.

Epi­demi­ol­o­gists between the NCDC and Bayelsa pored over the symp­toms. Ev­ery clin­i­cal find­ing sug­gested a dis­ease re­ported only once in Nige­ria-back in the 1970s. Mon­key pox.

Epi­demi­ol­o­gists were quite sure it was mon­key pox, but still sent off sam­ples for con­fir­ma­tion at World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion ref­er­ence lab­o­ra­tory hosted in Dakar, Sene­gal.

The re­sults were yet to show up. But epi­demi­ol­o­gists were sure they had nailed the symp­toms to the right dis­ease. They okayed Bayelsa health com­mis­sioner to go pub­lic.

By first week of Oc­to­ber, of­fi­cials had iden­ti­fied and were trac­ing 32 peo­ple who may have had con­tact with any of those in­fected and hos­pi­tal­ized.

Since then Nige­ri­ans have been a-tizzy over the “new” out­break. Il­lus­tra­tive pho­tos were dug up on­line to por­tray the most vis­i­ble symp­toms-the un­sightly skin rash.

“The pic­ture is very gory, very ir­ri­tat­ing,” Abi­gail Essien com­plained about the photo. Told it was to draw at­ten­tion and make peo­ple want to read about mon­key pox, she re­torted, “I even pre­fer read­ing about Ebola that mon­key pox, even though Ebola is dead­lier.”

At its height, Ebola in the first out­break in West Africa, rav­aged Guinea Sierra Leone and Liberia, killing more than 11,000 peo­ple within months in 2014.

Lassa fever has killed hun­dreds in Nige­ria alone-98 dead so far this year from 837 sus­pected in­fec­tions this year alone. It has also es­tab­lished a pat­tern of sea­sonal out­breaks nearly ev­ery year since it was first dis­cov­ered

And menin­gi­tis out­break topped 9,799 cases, with 602 deaths.

All have fa­tal­ity ra­tios far higher than mon­key­pox. In the last clus­ter of the dis­ease in the 1970s, fa­tal­ity ra­tio was 5%--mean­ing only five in 100 peo­ple who caught the in­fec­tion would have died.

“It doesn’t have to be,” says NCDC chief ex­ec­u­tive Chikwe Ihek­weazu. “If the cases are well man­aged, de­tected early, the chances are they will sur­vive.”

Other than menin­gi­tis, Ebola and Lassa fever stand out with mon­key pox for be­ing zoonoses-dis­eases that can move between hu­mans and an­i­mals. One run­ning meme on so­cial me­dia asks what Nige­ria has done to of­fend the an­i­mal king­dom.

But that’s where the joke stops. Typ­i­cally viruses that live in an­i­mals cir­cu­late in an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions for long. Pe­ri­od­i­cally, they jump into hu­man pop­u­la­tions.

That’s ex­actly what hap­pened with

the cur­rent mon­key pox. And it isn’t just the name thing. Epi­demi­ol­o­gists tak­ing his­tory of the 11-year-old have con­firmed con­tact with a mon­key.

Only sam­ples from both the boy and mon­key can show if the viruses are the same, but the mon­key isn’t around any­more.

The virus may be named mon­key pox virus, but it doesn’t live in only mon­keys. Rats, squir­rels, gen­eral wild game carry it too. And wild game of dif­fer­ent kinds are del­i­ca­cies across Africa, which is how the Ebola out­break be­gan-through con­tact with an­i­mals.

A pub­lic health ad­vi­sory warns of con­tact with an­i­mals, but that doesn’t mean ban­ish­ing your pets. More it means han­dle with care.

“The pe­riod of in­creased risk is at the point of killing. But the eat­ing is not a prob­lem,” says Ihek­weazu.

“Once you eat well-cooked or -fried meat, you are per­fectly fine. It is the peo­ple that ac­tu­ally touch th­ese an­i­mals, pre­pare them, kill them and are in con­tact with them with­out per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment and don’t wash their hands af­ter­ward.”

That’s how mon­key pox jumps from an­i­mal vec­tors to hu­man hosts. A bite or scratch from an in­fected an­i­mal or pre­par­ing bush meat can get the virus into a hu­man.

Once in a hu­man, it gets to other hu­mans through res­pi­ra­tory droplets, con­tact with in­fected per­sons or con­tam­i­nated ma­te­ri­als. state of­fi­cials could con­clude ex­am­i­na­tion.

States are also scram­bling to fight fake news. Par­ents scram­bled this week to drag their chil­dren from school in Anam­bra af­ter so­cial me­dia posts al­leged chil­dren were be­ing vac­ci­nated.

It came af­ter pre­vi­ous posts that the out­break of mon­key pox in Bayelsa was the re­sult of in­ten­tional in­jec­tions meant to re­duce the re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion.

The in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter de­bunked it, but it didn’t stop par­ents. The army has had to of­fi­cially de­clare the im­mu­ni­sa­tion was part of its cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for the re­gions where its Op­er­a­tion Python Dance II runs.

Now health of­fi­cials may have a prob­lem ahead-with get­ting par­ents to let their chil­dren get im­mu­ni­sa­tion as a mas­sive measles vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign starts this Oc­to­ber.

And Thurs­day came with fresh al­le­ga­tion of two pos­si­ble mon­key pox in­fec­tions at a district hospi­tal in Abuja. The pox turned out to be only chicken pox, not mon­key.

“I think I like the sus­pi­cion be­cause it’s bet­ter to sus­pect than to ig­nore it and it later turns out to be pos­i­tive,” said Humphrey Oko­roukwu, di­rec­tor of pub­lic health in the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory.

“The truth now is that there is no con­firmed case of mon­key pox dis­ease in FCT,” he said.

In many cases, the face is most af­fected. Younger chil­dren are more sus­cep­ti­ble to mon­key pox

In many cases, the face is most af­fected. Younger chil­dren are more sus­cep­ti­ble to mon­key pox

Hands af­fected by mon­key pox rash

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.