By Olanrewaju Akojede
Lagos – A Don, Dr Oladapo Afolabi, on Thursday warned of possible outbreak of more zoonotic disease if the government failed to convey a national public health agenda on human-animal relationships.
Afolabi, a veterinary expert and lecturer at Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun, made the assertion while peaking on the recent outbreakof Monkeypox in some states in the South-South and South-West.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the outbreak was a reflection of public ignorance.
NAN reports that Monkeypox outbreak was first reported in Bayelsa on Sept. 22, while it spread to adjourning states such as Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and recently Ekiti, Ogun and Lagos.
The zoonotic disease was first discovered in Nigeria in 1970 when two cases were discovered as a virus in the like of smallpox which occurred in the colonies of monkeys.
Following its resemblance to smallpox, it was named Monkeypox. The first recorded case was in Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, in 1971, Nigeria reported the first case of Monkeypox where two cases were established. In 1978, there was one case of Monkeypox.
Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic disease caused by contact with the monkeypox virus that belongs to the same family of viruses that include Variola Virus.
The Monkeypox virus can cause an illness with a generalised vesicular skin rash, fever and painful jaw swelling. Previous outbreaks have led to death in about 1 to 10 per cent of infected cases.
There is no specific medicine to treat the disease, but intensive supportive care helps patients to recover fully.
On the spread of zoonotic diseases to human, Afolabi said that they could be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans, hence extra caution must be taken.
“Zoonotic diseases may be fatal and be easily spread because they are mostly virus which travels fast; they are infections that can be transmitted directly or indirectly.
“Sometimes, the severity of these diseases in human may be fatal and life threatening, hence there is a need for a public health agenda on handling of wildlife by government.
“People got in contact with these zoonotic diseases through sheer ignorance and spread them through same ignorance. Some of the patients after contacting it still prefer staying among relatives.
“Anybody with traces of zoonotic disease should first be isolated before any medication, then there should be quarantine of the affected areas because zoonotic diseases travel fast,’’ he said.
Afolabi said that there should be greater public health awareness by government on how to handle zoonotic diseases.
“The recent outbreak calls for greater public awareness on zoonotic diseases, they are from wide ranges of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungus or parasites.
“From records, there are about 250 zoonotic organisms and they can be found in some of the domesticated animals and wildlife.
“We can contact zoonotic diseases from dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, farm animals and other wildlife which include the recent ones from monkeys such as Ebola and Monkeypox.
“Since we are in the tropics, there should be more advocacies on handling of these diseases to avoid the spread, because the public are naive on ways to prevent its unfortunate spread,’’ he said.
Afolabi said that genetic mutations of organisms may be on the rise in the animals which might give rise to discovery of more zoonotic diseases that may affect humans if precautions were not taken.
“The increasing genetic mutations in animals may lead to the emergence of many new zoonotic diseases which, sadly, may defy human resistance as much as we keep contacts with those animals.
“There are some diseases now that are crossing the animal barriers to human, some of them are not affecting humans before, but now, because of several factors that have reduced human immunity.
“The only way out of this is to be careful with the way we handle the animals in the wild. Also, there are some micro-organisms that were accidentally developed in the laboratories.
“These micro-organisms are accidentally released and now, there is a gradual evolution of those organisms through mutation crossing animal barriers to human,’’ he said.
Afolabi said that as a matter of prevention, diligent personal hygiene must be adhered to and the public should reduce the consumption of animals that were susceptible to zoonotic diseases.
“The only means of avoiding zoonotic disease viable now is to avoid contact with wildlife, especially the monkeys and basic hygiene practices is the safest means.
“The general public should stop hiding new development in their system by staying indoors, thereby practicing self-medication; rather, they should report to any health centre around them.
“Government should set up quarantine centres around the country and not wait till there are reported cases of outbreak before those centres are hurriedly put in place,’’ he said. (NAN)