By Abujah Racheal
A Professor of Virology, Oyewale Tomori, says COVID-19 is diverting the country’s need to increase surveillance on other diseases of public health concerns.
According to him, increased disease surveillance across board has become urgently necessary as the Texas U.S. health authorities detect a monkeypox case traceable to Nigeria.
Tomori, a leading virologist who helped spearhead Nigeria’s efforts to kick polio out of the country, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Saturday.
U.S. health authorities recently diagnosed a resident who had spent some time in Nigeria of monkeypox, stating that it is the first reported case of monkey pox in the U.S.
The U.S. Centre for Disease and Control (CDC) said the traveller left Lagos, Nigeria on July 8, 2021 and arrived Atlanta, U.S. on July 9.
After a stopover at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, the traveller continued to Dallas, and is currently in a Dallas hospital.
It assured that the risk that the virus would spread to others was believed to be low.
The CDC investigators released a description of the traveller and are working with airline, state and local health officials to contact passengers and other individuals who might have come in contact with the patient during the trip.
The investigators said that mask policies which were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic likely limited other travellers’ exposure to the virus, which is also a respiratory virus.
According to Tomori, it is not the CDC but the health authorities of a county equivalent of our Local Government Area (LGA), that detected and announced the case.
“Yes, they are being assisted by their CDC to deal with aspects outside their jurisdiction.
“This is a lesson for us not to unashamedly depend on NCDC for our disease surveillance and response, while states and LGAs run to Abuja for everything.
“Note that the main report is not a CDC report, but that of the county or LGA.’’
On some of the prevention strategies to adopt, the virologist said that the first step would be to spread awareness among people about the infection.
“Contact with sick animals should be avoided.
“Since this disease is spread primarily through contact with infected animals, and subsequently from humans to humans, care should be taken and meat should be well cooked.
“Those preparing raw meat should take adequate precautions to avoid contaminating themselves, and later becoming the route of transmission to other people.’’
According to him, it is important to isolate infected persons and keep a safe distance from infected people, while ensuring cleanliness.
“Direct contact with healthcare workers who examine and are caring for an infected person should also be avoided.
“Those are the main points on information about the case that you will need to have in order to do a thorough investigation and see if more cases are occurring.
“Again, I need to point out that the low numbers we are reporting for other diseases are aberrations and not real,” he told NAN.
Tomori said that the relevant agencies in the country should get in touch urgently with the U.S. officials for more details about the case, so that the country would know the locations, travel history of the case to assist in contact tracing and direct its response.
“Questions such as when was the case in Nigeria?, where did the case visit? who were the contacts among others should be asked,’’ he added.
The expert said that though the risk was low, the incident highlighted the fact that an infection anywhere was potentially an infection everywhere.
He explained that monkeypox was a very contagious infection which spreads through physical contact with an infected person or animal.
Tomori noted that it should serve as a reminder that infectious diseases were spilling from animals to humans regularly and that COVID-19 was not the only infectious disease of zoonotic origin that the world may worry about in the near future.
The virologist said that monkeypox virus is a disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, noting that every one out of 10 persons affected by it could die, with most of the deaths occurring in the younger age group.
“After being hit by it, if the rashes on your body start turning into wounds and you feel more pain in it, then it should be understood that it can be risky for you.
“It is such that 10 out of 100 patients suffering from this disease are likely to die,” Tomori said.
Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic viral disease that is contagious. The disease is mostly found in tropical rain forest regions of Central and West Africa.
As people around the world are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, information is being received continuously about one new disease after another.