‎By Samuel Oyadongha

YENAGOA – A 12 member rapid response team comprising senior medical professionals have been inaugurated by the Bayelsa State government to combat the spread of the suspected monkey pox, a viral epidemic that has hit the state.

The government also set up other sub-teams to carry out contact tracing of patients. The State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebimitula Etebu, who inaugurated the committee Friday in Yenagoa reassured the citizens that there was no need to panic. Etebu said that currently, the state had 13 suspected cases at different stages of recovery following treatment at the makeshift isoloation ward at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri. According to him, over 50 persons were being actively followed at different locations in the state. The situation, he added, was not beyond control and stressed the need for people to observe the simple hygiene of washing hands. He also handed over some boxes of hand sanitizers to the team entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the disease. “At present, as we speak, we have 13 suspected cases at different stages of recovery following treatment at the makeshift isoloation ward at NDUTH, Okolobiri. There are also over 50 persons being actively followed at differently located places in the state. ”And this is in order to quickly detect any new cases following exposure to suspected cases. The state Ministry of Health, with the support of the international community led by the World Health Organisation, international partners, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control have since embarked on enlightenment campaigns. ”Active disease surveillance has also been carried, case management and other sundry measures have also been carried out in a bid to halt the spread of the disease in the state. ”New suspected cases are being reported everyday in the state. The situation can get out of hand if critical measures are not quickly put in place and that is why we have thought it expedient to inform the public. ” And the essence is to allay the general public of the fact that there is no need to panic; it does not call for any fear. The ministry and the government of the state are on top of the situation. ”We have carried out all necessary measures that is why we have been able to contain so far and today we are just symbolically giving the opportunity to the press to ensure that we do not want speculation,” he said. ‎Etebu noted that the disease is transmitted when a person comes in contact with the virus from animals or materials that are contaminated with the virus. According to him, the virus enters the body through broken skin that is usually not visible. The virus, he added could enter the body through respiratory tract or the mucus membrane in the eyes, in the nose and in the mouth. He said animal to human transmission could occur by the bite of many bush animals and it could also occur through a direct contact with body fluids or lesions or patients that had already come down with the disease. ‎”It can also be contracted through contaminated beddings and so on and so forth. Human to human transmission occurs through droplet infection with direct contact with body fluids or lesions or materials that are in direct contact with contaminated clothings and the like. ”So, the simple measures we have been propagating and sensitising people and creating awareness is that if you maintain simple hygiene of washing your hands when you touch animals whether dead or alive, when you go to toilet and so on, will help prevent transmission of this virus. ”We have also done several things and the most important thing is that we are telling the public that if you see any body that has developed an unusual rash, that is similar to chicken pox rash or small pox, immediately contact us or advise the person to go to the nearest health facility.” Also, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Markson Iworiso, said that the government was embarking on practical steps to ensure that the disease was prevented from spreading. He urged the citizens to report all cases of unusual rash to the medical facilities for necessary action. Iworiso-Markson urged the citizenry to call two dedicated lines, 08066987752, 08035474676, to report cases of the suspected virus, saying that his ministry would produce jingles in local dialect and English to sensitise the people to the scourge. The Chief Medical Director, NDUTH where 11 cases of the virus were being handled, Prof. Dimie Ogoina, said that a doctor who was infected and an 11-year-old were treated and discharged. The CMD, who said others were responding to treatment, emphasized the need for awareness creation in the bid to effectively arrest the disease and appealed to the media for the usual cooperation. He said, ”Based on the mandate we have received from the state government, we currently have an isolation centre put in to manage the suspected cases of monkey pox. In deed, the index case that came in about two weeks ago, the hospital has been fully mobilised to receive and care for every suspected case of monkey pox in the state. ”Currently, in the hospital, we have a designated makeshift facility where we receive adult and children that are suspected to have monkey pox. “We are fully mobilised and we have provided sufficient awareness among the staff of the hospital. ” Unfortunately one of our doctors contracted the virus at the early stage of the outbreak before it was fully recognised. But I am happy to inform you that the doctor has been cared for, treated and has fully recovered and he is doing well. “We have also successfully treated and managed an 11-year-old index case who has recovered and is doing well