Bight Newspaper reports that Bayelsa State Government through its Ministry of Health has faulted the inclusion of Bayelsa on the list of states affected by cholera epidemic outbreak as recently published by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its disease surveillance report.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Toyin Azebi, refuted the report at a joint press briefing shortly after a meeting of the Bayelsa Taskforce on Immunization and Health Services presided over by its Chairman and Deputy Governor of the state, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, in Government House, Yenagoa on Thursday.

Excerpt from the meeting convene at the office of the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.

It will be recalled that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control had in its recent Epidemiological Week 22, 2024 report, placed Bayelsa as amongst the states with the highest burden of cholera cases.

Dr Azebi, who pointed out that there was no confirmed outbreak of cholera in Bayelsa in recent times, noted that the NCDC’s pronouncement of cholera outbreak in the state, was a total misrepresentation and should be discountenanced as such.

She emphasized that all suspected 449 cases of cholera in the state from January to date, had turned out negative from clinical laboratory tests, as they were proven to be cases of gastrointestinal diarrhea.

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According to the Permanent Secretary, the ministry had reached out to the NCDC on the issue, and they had reviewed the State data again and found out that their initial report was incorrect and agreed to issue a rebuttal which they had not done as at the time of the press briefing.

Dr. Azebi said: “The NCDC report is a gross misrepresentation of the Bayelsa data, and we have tackled them on it. They have reviewed our data with us and will soon do another pronouncement excluding us as a state with a cholera outbreak.

“Since January 2024, there have been 449 suspected cases of cholera reported across the eight LGAs. Importantly, only two new suspected cases were reported in the most recent week, indicating no new cases. We are able to even report these cases of watery diarrhea because of our optimized surveillance system across the state.

“Extensive testing has been conducted to confirm cholera cases. Out of 42 Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) carried out, only 14 returned positive. Crucially, all 14 positives from the Rapid Diagnostic tests turned out negative when subjected to culture test.

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“Culture tests are the gold standard for cholera diagnosis, and no cases have been confirmed by this method. And this attests to no outbreak.

“In summary, the cholera situation in Bayelsa State is under control with no culture confirmed positive. The state government is taking active and comprehensive steps to manage the situation effectively, ensuring public health and safety.”

Commenting on the issue of a dead whale found on the shores of coastal Okpoama community in Brass Local Government Area of the state, reportedly being butchered for food, Dr Azebi cautioned the people to refrain from the act as it could lead to a serious epidemic outbreak.

According to her, consuming the dead whale could lead to mercury poisoning, botulism and bacteria infections that might prove dangerous to the health of the people.

Also speaking, the Director of Public Health, Bayelsa State Ministry of Health, Dr Jones Stowe, said the State’s disease surveillance system was well fortified, noting that all suspected cases of cholera were negative to culture test.

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On the few reported cases of yellow fever across the eight LGAs in the state, Dr Stowe informed that the Ministry was taking proactive steps to ensure no deaths and no further spread of the infection.

According to him, presumptive positive cases, are being monitored closely while the confirmation tests are awaited from Dakar in Senegal.

Other members of the Bayelsa State Taskforce on Immunization and Health Services that spoke at the press briefing include the State Coordinator of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Marcus Oluwadare; the State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Very Rev. Father Joseph Opelema, and a representative of the State Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Idris Makeni.

While stressing the need for the public to always maintain good hygiene to prevent contracting infections, they called on Bayelsans, especially parents, to make their children available for routine immunization to achieve 100 percent immunization coverage in the state.

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