The Guardian (Lagos)

28 July 2014

Nigeria: Govt Allays Fear of Ebola Disease Outbreak

Photo: Aminata.com
File photo.

Lagos and Abuja — The Federal Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Government Monday allayed fear of Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the country.

The assurance is coming on the heels of findings and the ongoing screening of all possible contacts with the late Liberian, which up to date (Monday) have shown that no Nigerian has tested of Ebola virus or died of possible infection.

Besides, following a case of Ebola virus in Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), has suspended all A-Sky Airline operations to the country with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have been urged to shun the eating of bush meat since it is considered the natural host of the virus.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, at a briefing in Lagos to update Nigerians on the disease, said: "We can categorically state that as of today, we have only one case of imported Ebola and one death. No Nigerian is infected, but all contacts are being actively followed. We call on all Nigerians to be calm and not panic and do hereby assure them that both the State and Federal Governments are up and doing to ensure that the virus does not escape and that no Nigerian is infected with this virus."

The commissioner said since the Liberian Ebola-importee episode, contacts tracing efforts have so far established a total of 59 contacts registered - consisting of 44 hospital contacts (38 healthcare workers and six laboratory staff) and 15 airports comprising three ECOWAS staff-driver, Liaison and Protocol officer, Nigerian Ambassador to Monrovia, two nursing staff and five airport passenger handlers.

As of the time of briefing yesterday, 20 contacts had been physically screened of which 50 per cent type 1 contact and 50 per cent had had type 2 contact.

Idris added that airline manifest had not been provided by the airline at the time of this report and therefore, the precise number of passenger contacts was yet to be ascertained, especially as two flights were involved - that is, Monrovia-Lome and Lome-Lagos flights.

He recalled that on July 20, 2014, a 40-year-old male Liberian arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, from Monrovia via Lome on Asky Airline Flight No KP50, on his way to Calabar for the eighth ECOWAS Retreat of Heads of Offices meeting, as a senior ECOWAS official in Liberia.

His plane was reported to have had a brief stop at Accra and Lome, and the aircraft was changed at Lome. He was also reported to have fallen ill while on board and remained very ill on arrival at the airport in Lagos. He was then assisted by various airport and ECOWAS protocol staff to a private hospital named First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos.

It was gathered that Lagosians and Nigerians as a whole should count themselves lucky that the patient had been taken to first-class facility that was able to handle the case so-professionally. The facility has been demobilised and primary source of infection eliminated.

An initial diagnosis of suspected Viral Haemorrhagic fever was made. The unnamed Liberian was admitted and investigations were carried and supportive treatment was commenced. The private hospital immediately notified the State Ministry of Health, who also informed the Federal Ministry of Health. The patient, however, died at about 6:50 a.m. on July 25, 2014 and has since been cremated according to Lagos State Cremation Law. The facility has been demobilised and primary source of infection eliminated.

Adhering strictly to WHO guidelines, the body of the deceased patient was decontaminated using 10 per cent sodium hypochlorite and cremated, with the permission of the government of Liberia.

A cremation urn has been prepared for dispatch to the family. The vehicle that conveyed the remains was also fully decontaminated.

Coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Abdulsalami Nasidi, also reassured Nigerians that the country has the capacity to control the disease.

Nasidi appealed that bats, monkeys eating communities should for now desist from the act for safety reasons.

According to him, "It has to be said that there are some communities that worship animals like bats and keep them in their houses. This is the time to be very careful. Secondly, I want to appeal to all Nigerians that in any case should anyone die of bleeding related symptoms, burial rites must be completed under close supervision of the public health officers."

Nasidi further warned that Nigerians must be wary of healing homes and their attractions to citizens of neighbouring countries. President, Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Oyewale Tomori stressed on hygiene, citing that EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is two to 21 days.

The NCAA's Acting Director General, Benedict disclosed the suspension yesterday in Ikeja, Lagos, adding that the action was taken to protect Nigerians from the deadly Ebola virus which was ravaging some parts of East and Central Africa.

A-Sky Airline is an important carrier in West, East and Central Africa, operating 80 flights into Lagos and Abuja weekly.

The airline flew the Liberian who was infected with the virus into Lagos and this has created panic in Nigeria. The passenger has since died and the Country Manager of the A-Sky was invited to the show evidence of actions taken since the pandemic in its core areas of operation and after.

The airline representative was said to have failed to offer any substantial evidence neither did he demonstrate any capacity to be able to prevent a reoccurrence, hence the suspension.

The spokesperson from the Office of Senior Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Dr. Christopher Otabor gave the advice yesterday in Abuja during a media interaction, adding " Ebola virus is deadly and for this reason the public should suspend eating of bush meat now."

Ibe Uwaleke, Chukwuma Muanya, Wole Oyebade, Emeka Anuforo and John Okeke

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