By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi and Philip Nwosu
The Federal Government, through the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said there is no ongoing vaccination against monkeypox in the South East, or any other part of the country.
Dr. Ihekweazu said this in Abuja, yesterday, at a Senate committee hearing on alleged monkeypox outbreak in parts of the country.
The NCDC boss explained that there is no relationship between his organisation and what is going on in the South East.
He cautioned Nigerians against participating in any immunisation against the disease.
Earlier in the week, some parents in Delta, Abia, Imo and Anambra, Yobe states, in a panic move, withdrew their children from schools, following unconfirmed reports that the army was administering immunisation vaccines suspected to be harmful.
The army has since denied the claims, saying the medical outreach is a social responsibility programme fashioned into the Operation Python Dance II, in the South East.
A statement by the Deputy Director Public Relations 82 Division, Col. Sagir Musa, on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, that the free medical outreach was not a vaccine intended to “infect monkey pox or any major contemporary or emerging diseases in Nigeria to the people of South East or any part of the country,” failed to douse the panic.
According to the statement, the free medical services in the region started on September 18, 2017, in Nkwaagu community in Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
That clarification, notwithstanding, parents and guardians still thronged schools to remove their wards and children.
Also, yesterday, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Turkur Buratai said the opening of medical facilities to the publc is part of the army’s corporate social responsibility.
The army chief said this when he commissioned Phase One of the rmed force’s Radio-Diagnosis Ward and School of Midwifery at the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.
said the Nigerian Army believes in providing befitting facility for the treatment and management of wounded personnel and their families.
General Buratai said that this facilities and the medical services to provided by the medical unit will further boost the moral and fighting efficiency of troops.
Monkey pox: Suspected cases rise to 33
From Fred Itua, Abuja
National Coordinator, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has confirmed 33 reported cases of Monkey Pox infection in seven states of the Federation.
The NCDC boss, who disclosed this to senators yesterday said 17 out of the number manifested in Bayelsa State alone.
Others states where the disease has manifested, according to Ihekweazu, are Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, Ogun. He, however, pointed out that it was not certain whether, or not, all the victims reported to have been afflicted by monkey pox were actually infected by the virus or other diseases with similar symptoms.
The senators described as a national embarrassment and shame, the lack of public diagnostic centre for detection of the current outbreak in some states of the federation.
Members of the Senate committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases stated this at an interactive session with officials of NCDC, who were invited by the committee to brief it on the current outbreak of monkey pox disease in some states of the federation and efforts by government to contain it.
Members urged the NCDC to submit to the committee, in the 2018 budget proposal, the full cost for setting up diagnostic centres in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. They assured that the committee would give NCDC maximum support to get the required funds to establish such highly needed diagnostic centres across the country, to avoid the current national disgrace of going to other countries for diagnosis.
A member of the committee, Sam Anyanwu, urged the Federal Government to use all the funds it claimed to have recovered from looters to establish the diagnostic centres and, also, develop the health sector generally.
The national coordinator of NCDC shocked the lawmakers with the news that the country had no single government-owned diagnostic laboratory to test those suspected to be infected with the monkey pox virus.
He however, told the lawmakers that it was only the Redeemer University in Nigeria that has the facilities to diagnose monkey pox, pointing out that the NCDC has sent specimen to Dakar, Senegal, for diagnostic tests.
“There is no public laboratory centre in Nigeria at the moment that can carry out the diagnosis for monkey pox. We are walking very hard and have just opened the national reference laboratory in Gadua in Abuja. We don’t have the resources to develop laboratory services in the country.
“There is a critical challenge. All the work we do for surveillance can’t confirm diseases easily. So, that is one major strategic deficit we have. This is why we had to send samples to Dakar, where there is a World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory to confirm the monkey pox. We sent two samples, one to Redeemers University laboratory and one to Dakar,” he said.
Briefing the committee, Ihekweazu revealed there was no known vaccination for the monkey pox menace and said the patients could only be managed in hospitals until they recover from the accompanying rashes of the contagious ailment.
On the speculation that NCDC was administering vaccination in partnership with the military, the national coordinator, said it was a rumour that had no truth in it and urged the public to disregard it.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has confirmed seven suspected cases of monkey pox in four hospitals in Abuja, with samples of six victims taken and sent to Senegal for test and confirmation.
It, however, denied rumours of outbreak of the dreaded disease in Abuja, the nation’s capital. This was disclosed by the Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS) of FCTA, Amanda Pam, while briefing newsmen yesterday.
She said: “Three suspected cases were recorded in National Hospital, two in Gwarinpa Hospital, one each in the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada and Nyanya General Hospital.”
Pam said the recorded cases were that of chicken pox, which shares similar appearance with monkey pox. On Wednesday, there were rumours of two cases of monkey pox outbreak at Gwarinpa General Hospital, Abuja.
“We had some suspected cases, and samples were collected and sent to the lab; so, we are waiting for the results, but from all indications, it is not monkey pox.
“But, I like the suspicion, because it is better to suspect than ignore it, and it later turns out to be positive. The truth now is there is no confirmed case of monkey pox disease in FCT,” she said.
Explaining further, FCT’s Acting Director of Public Health, Humphrey Okoroukwu, disclosed that he had already visited the said hospitals on Wednesday and reaffirmed no case of the virus was found.
He said surveillance officers from the public health department of the FCTA were deployed to the 62 wards of the territory, as a precautionary measure against threatening health issues.
The Federal Government had, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ((NCDC)), on Monday, confirmed suspected outbreak of monkey pox in seven states in the country, which included Bayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun and Cross River states.