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…Bayelsa food vendors, small-scale business owners lament

By Ikenna Amadi

The network of panic created by the monkeypox viral disease is hovering over the south-east, after the dreaded disease continued to spread across the south-south states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.

The high levels of interstate travels across the south-east and south-south is a source of worry for residents of the two regions.

Authorities have been getting assurances since last week that the disease is being contained. Regardless, residents continue to panic over the mystery nature of the pox.

Akwa Ibom State has recorded one confirmed case while two other cases are still under
investigation. Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital on Saturday.

According to Dr. Ukpong, “the era of avoiding excessive handshake and body contact is here again.

“We should at the moment re-awaken the continued emphasis on regular hand washing and avoiding the consumption of bush meat at the moment.”

Confirming the breakout, Akwa Ibom State commissioner for information, Mr. Charles Udoh said: “Monkeypox currently has no treatment and no vaccine. It looks like Smallpox but the rashes are larger while the disease is milder,” assuring that “we will provide more information in subsequent releases.”

Meanwhile, the monkeypox has begun to take a heavy toll on the social and economic life in Bayelsa.

Owing to the contagious nature of the boil-like viral infection, most residents in the state have become extra-careful of the water they drink. Most residents have stopped buying sachet water from Agbura axis of the state in Yenagoa Local Government where the epidemic reportedly broke out.

A particular sachet water packaging company (name withheld) in Agbura, has shut down operation, owing to non-patronage as their numerous customers now buy sachet water from other communities in the state.

The situation has created a short supply of sachet water in Agbura and other parts of Yenagoa with high demand from population of low income earners who cannot afford bottled.

A respondent, Madam Ikienzi Aziba, a petty trader in Agbura, lamented that her numerous customers had deserted her shop, afraid that the area was where the first index case was recorded.

Similarly, she noted that business had become bad, as people prefer to buy household needs from shops in communities where no case was reported.

Also, the continuous jingles running on the state radio warning residents not to consume bush meat, antelopes, and monkey had affected operators of restaurants, particularly for fear of contacting monkeypox.

Madam Agnes Esther, whose beer parlour and bush meat restaurant is a popular rendezvous, has continued to count her losses saying, “business has been very bad. My customers have stopped coming; residents are now scared of eating bush meat, gradually throwing one out of business. Some food vendors have decided to go into other businesses.”

Madam Ebieride Patience, a food vendor, said: “as a result of the fear of contracting the
disease through consumption of unknown sources of meat, residents have resorted to either packaging their food from home to office or simply going on snacks for lunch.

“Because of fear of contracting the disease, markets in the state are no longer crowded with customers purchasing meat as it was prior to the outbreak of the monkeypox in the
state.”

An accountant with the Ministry of Mineral Resources, who preferred anonymity, told our correspondent that his love for meat had reduced, even as he noted that since government warning ‘saturated’ the airwaves, he had resorted to eating fish.

When asked for update on the 47 persons quarantined over the disease, the state Commissioner for Health, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu said the number of victims had increased from 11 to 13 and contact index increased to 50, even as he posited that the victims, including a 17-year-old boy are responding to treatment and were at various stages of recovery. He also called on the people of the state to report any person with rashes, particularly boil-like rashes which constituted a strong symptom of the disease.

He said further that government was proactive, and had set up a committee “Quick Response Search Medical Team’’ to go into the local governments, communities and fishing settlement to control the spread of the disease.

Etebu, however, reiterated that government was prepared to cater for the medical bills of all those that had showed symptom, even as he appealed to residents with the rashes to voluntarily submit themselves to the government for medical care.

Author: Cerebral Lemon