The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has registered 59 suspected cases of Monkey pox with 15 confirmed, its director-general, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said on Tuesday in Abuja.
Ihekweazu was reacting to the Dallas, Texas resident who recently returned from Nigeria and tested positive to the disease.
It was the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. since 2003, with health officials saying that the public should not be concerned.
Laboratory tests confirmed that the patient was infected with a strain of the virus mainly seen in West Africa, including Nigeria.
“While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public,” Dallas County Judge, Clay Jenkins, said in a statement by Dallas County’s health department.
With passengers wearing masks on the flight and in the airport, the health department said that the risk of spreading monkey pox via respiratory droplets to others on the planes and in the airports was low.
Ihekweazu told the News Agency of Nigeria that just as the agency responded to other epidemic-prone diseases in the country, an outbreak would be declared when there is a large cluster of monkey pox cases that constitute an emergency.
“The federal government was notified of the situation in Texas, through the International Health Regulations (IHR), which reported a case of monkey pox disease diagnosed in a patient who had recently visited Nigeria.
“Since the re-emergence of monkey pox in the country in September 2017, the agency has continued to receive reports and responses to sporadic cases of the disease from states across the country.
“We have been working closely with state health ministries to strengthen monkey pox disease surveillance and response in the country.
“We work with Enhanced Monkey pox Surveillance Project where we have been training health workers across states to rapidly detect and manage cases.
“Our initial focus is on the states with the highest number of cases – Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Lagos.
“We will continue working with all states to strengthen monkey pox prevention, detection and control in Nigeria,” he explained.
He urged Nigerians to continue adhering to precautions that protected them from monkey pox and other infectious diseases.
“If you feel ill or have a sudden rash, please visit a hospital for diagnosis and management,” he advised.
Monkey pox, which is in the same family of viruses as small pox, is a rare but potentially deadly viral infection that begins with flu-like symptoms and progresses to a rash on the face and body.
It tends to last two to four weeks. People who do not have symptoms are not capable of transmitting the virus.
Monkey pox infections of that strain are fatal in about one in 100 people, affecting those with weakened immune systems more strongly.