PMNews: What Is It About This Monkey Business?

According to a famous local fable in the South West Region of Nigeria, the original intention of the creator was to make monkey look precisely like man. But somewhere along the line, monkey couldn’t apply the desirable patience for the maker to ultimately accomplish this noble desire. The monkey suddenly started yelling across town, telling anyone that cared to listen that very soon it shall take the exact form of man. The Creator allegedly became infuriated about the monkey’s lack of restrain and decorum and thus truncated the monkey’s transformation process midway. This, explains the fable, is why monkeys share certain traits with man. For instance, monkeys are generally considered to be particularly intelligent animals.

Apart from such trendy tales about the evolution of monkeys, usually in Nigeria man doesn’t really have much to do with these near human animals. Unlike other animals such as dogs, goats, cows, sheep etc that are reared and eaten, the nearest place where a glimpse of monkeys could be gotten is in the zoo. Though monkeys are kept at home as pets, but the practice isn’t really widespread in our clime. Here, monkeys either stay in the zoo or in the jungle.

But all that seems to have changed now as monkeys have decided to infiltrate town under a new guise called Monkey Pox which is a viral illness caused by a group of viruses that include Chicken Pox and Small Pox. The first case of the virus was said to have been discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and it had afterward spreads into the West African region. The virus has two types, the Central African and the West African types with the latter being milder and having no records of mortality.

Sadly, Nigeria seems to be having her own fair share of this awful monkey business. According to the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, 31 cases of suspected Monkey Pox virus cases have been recorded in States such as Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross Rivers. Fortunately, there has not been any reported case of mortality arising from the virus outbreak. A NCDC source claimed that Public health authorities across the country have been well informed on what to do when a suspected case arises. The Federal Government had equally activated emergency operation centres in affected States to coordinate investigation and response in affected states.

Meanwhile, in Lagos State, the State Government is investigating two suspected cases of Monkey Pox in the State. This was revealed by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who disclosed that though the two cases are yet to be confirmed Monkey Pox, Government opted to be proactive for the safety of residents. Part of such safety measures according to Dr. Idris was to quarantine the two suspects in their various houses pending the result of some medical tests conducted on them. Consequently, the State Government is advising members of the public to observe and maintain a high standard of personal and environmental hygiene at all times as part of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Experts have revealed that while there is no specific vaccine for the disease, vaccination against Small Pox has been proven to be 85 percent effective in preventing Monkey Pox. There is also no specific anti-viral therapy for Monkey Pox. However, the disease is self-limiting and could be managed conservatively. The symptoms of Monkey Pox in human is similar to those in Small Pox patient, though less severe. Such symptoms include rash, fever, chills, sweats, headache, backache, lymphadenopathy, sore-throats, cough and shortness of breath.

The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and Monkey Pox is that Monkey Pox causes lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for Monkey Pox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5−21 days. Within the first three days or more, after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body.

Monkey Pox virus occurs when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). 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, such as through contaminated bedding. Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets. Other human-to-human methods of transmission include direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens.

In order to improve case detection, health workers are to have a high index of suspicion any person with the above symptoms. The preventive measures to be taken against the spread of the disease include avoiding close contact with infected people, avoiding consumption of bush meat and dead animals, cooking of meat and meat product thoroughly before eating and washing hands with soap and running water frequently and thoroughly.

In our characteristic way of trivializing such sensitive issues, as the nation grapples with the reality of Monkey Pox, the whole monkey business took a comical dimension with an alleged report that the outbreak of the virus in Bayelsa State was as a result of a free medical care exercise it is allegedly administered in some parts of the Niger Delta. It took a statement from the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to deflate the supposed report. According to the Minister, the Federal Government has not conducted any free medical service or care in either Bayelsa or Rivers state, as alleged in the said report.

Of course, such amusing interlude wouldn’t in any way help in properly focusing on preventive measures against the virus. This time calls for sobriety and vigilance. Our national borders must be properly safeguarded to ensure that no one with the virus comes into the country. Similarly, schools and other such public institutions must not compromise hygiene. Public health officials must pay routine visits to schools in order to ensure compliance with accepted hygiene standard.

Perhaps more importantly, everybody must be watchful of their health situation and swiftly report any odd health situation to the nearest medical facility. Failure to do this at the right moment may possibly jeopardize numerous lives. This is not exactly the moment in time to play with health related issues. Every household must continue to preach and imbibe positive hygiene measures to guide against harmful tendencies that could jeopardize family health. God bless Nigeria.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.