Residents of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, are avoiding handshakes and bodily contact in public places following the outbreak of ‘Monkey Pox’ viral diseases which has infected 13 people including a medical doctor.
The development followed an advice by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, to members of the public to wash hands frequently and maintain a higher level of personal hygiene to curtail the spread of the disease.
Etebu had allayed fears of a possible epidemic of the contagious viral disease, assuring that the state government was on top of the situation.
He disclosed that 13 persons, including a medical doctor, had been quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri in Yenagoa Local Government Area.
He explained that “as the name implies, the virus was first seen in monkeys but can also be found in all bush animals such as rats, squirrels and antelopes, hence our surveillance on edible animals has to be heightened.
“The source is usually animals. Secretions from particularly dead animals are highly contagious, so also the fluids from infected persons.”
The commissioner recalled that the first index case came from Agbura in Yenagoa where somebody was purported to have killed and ate monkey meat and started developing rashes.
Many people at public functions on Thursday and Friday in Yenagoa kept their distances as well as avoided handshakes and hugs that characterised exchange of pleasantries at social functions.
Some people who spoke to our correspondent on the sideline of Thursday’s World Teachers Day celebration in Yenagoa said the precautionary measure was justified due to the anxiety created by the news of the dreaded disease on social media.
“This issue of avoiding handshakes reminds one of the days of Ebola, which compelled everyone to heighten personal hygiene. The government even provided wash hand basins and hand sanitizers at public places, but where are those things today?
“That is how we are as a people; the Ebola outbreak did not teach us anything. So we are just avoiding each other like plague but what can we do?
“It is based on advice that we should wash hands frequently; and if my hand is clean, I would endanger myself by shaking hands with someone with unwashed hands,” Timi James said.
Residents across the state capital have been circulating text messages on social media networks urging people to abstain from shaking hands due to the outbreak of the disease.