Monkeypox viral ,the raging diseases in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, which has so far infected 11 people including a medical doctor, is causing palpable fear, making people to shun handshakes and bodily contact in public places.
The development followed the advice by the state Commissioner of Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu to members of the public to wash hands frequently and maintain higher levels of personal hygiene to curtail spread of the disease.
Etebu had allayed fears of possible epidemic following the outbreak of the contagious viral disease, assuring that the state government was on top of the situation.
People who attended public functions on Thursday and Friday in Yenagoa kept their distances as well as avoided handshakes and hugs that characterise exchange of pleasantries at social functions.
Some people who spoke on the sidelines of Thursday’s World Teachers’ Day celebration in Yenagoa said the precautionary measure was justified due to the anxiety created by the spread of news of the dreaded disease on social media.
“This issue of avoiding handshakes reminds one of the days of the Ebola virus, which compelled everyone to heighten personal hygiene and government even provided wash hand basins and hand sanitisers 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.
Etebu disclosed that 11 persons, including a medical doctor, had been quarantined at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH), 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, and that is why our surveillance on edible animals has to be heightened.
“The source is usually animals. It was first seen in monkeys and that is why it is called monkey pox.
“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.