The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, has called on Nigerians to stop eating dead animals, bush meat, particularly monkeys, as Nigerian health authorities launch measures to curb the spread of monkeypox, following suspected cases of the disease in Bayelsa State.
In a press statement by the ministry on Thursday, Mr. Adewole assured Nigerians that the health ministry was working on curbing the spread of the disease.
Symptoms of the disease include headache, fever, back pains and in advanced cases, rashes bigger than those caused by chicken pox.
The minister urged anyone with the symptoms to immediately report to the nearest health facility, while advising health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion and observe safety precautions.
He warned that there is no known treatment or preventive vaccines, hence people should be at alert and avoid crowded places as much as possible.
Mr. Adewole outlined measures being taken to include placing health facilities in Bayelsa on alert, having patients suspected of the disease quarantined, and providing supportive treatments being offered to the victims.
The minister said investigation is still on-going and that health partners were working with the ministry on the reported outbreak.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC team in Bayelsa state are also supporting the state government in curbing the spread of the disease, he said.
Monkeypox, a viral disease, broke out in Yenagoa, Bayelsa capital and about 11 persons have been placed under medical surveillance.
An isolation centre was created by NCDC and the epidemiological team of the state's Ministry of Health to control the spread of the virus.
About 49 other persons who had been in contact with the persons infected with the virus are also being tracked by health experts.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner of Health, Ebitimitula Etebu, who had earlier confirmed suspicion of the disease, said samples of patients had been sent to a laboratory in Dakar, Senegal for confirmation.
He described monkeypox as a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include smallpox and chicken pox.
"Recently in Bayelsa, we noticed a suspected outbreak of monkeypox. Although it has not been confirmed, we have sent sample to World Health Organisation reference laboratory in Dakar, Senegal. When that comes out we will be sure that it is confirmed. But from all indications, it points towards it," he said.
Mr. Adewole also confirmed that samples from victims had been sent to WHO referral laboratory in Dakar. He, however, called for calm as monkeypox is mild and has no record of mortality.
Also, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC in a statement on Thursday gave preventive measures on how to avoid the virus.
The measures include: avoiding contact with squirrels, rats and monkeys., especially animals that are sick or found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs; always wash hands with soap and water after contact with animals or when caring for sick human relatives or soiled beddings.
"Health care workers are strongly advised to practice universal precautions while handling patients and/or body fluids at all times. They are also urged to be alert, be familiar with the symptoms and maintain a high index of suspicion. All suspected cases should be reported to the Local Government Area or State Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers," the statement read.
The Executive Officer, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, also advised that health workers must continue to manage their patients without fear.
"As long as universal infection prevention and control practices are strictly adhered to by all clinical staff, the chances of transmission are minimal," he said.
Although there is no specific medicine to treat the disease, when intensive supportive care is provided most patients recover fully.