Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, described the late American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer's visit that heralded the entry of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, into the country, as "pure madness."
This came as the Federal Government appealed to Nigerians not to panic and adhere to the highest possible personal hygiene measures and safety guidelines issued by the Federal Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, fears that more Nigerians may fall victim of the Ebola virus heightened, yesterday, as the Federal Government confirmed the 10th case of the disease after the death of the index case (the first case), bringing the total number of cases to 10.
The President, who spoke publicly for the first time since the outbreak of the disease in the country, expressed disappointment with the way and manner the late Sawyer brought Ebola to Nigeria.
Late Sawyer, whose arrival in Lagos on July 20, 2014, and eventual death five days later in a private hospital, sparked off the dreaded Ebola Virus saga in the country, was a consultant to the Liberian government.
He was said to be under surveillance in Liberia for a suspected case of the Ebola Virus Disease, but evaded authorities in Monrovia and tragically boarded a plane for Lagos in Nigeria, via Lome in Togo and Accra in Ghana.
His intention, according to reports was to connect to Calabar in Nigeria to attend a two-day retreat organized by the ECOWAS Commission, and later the same week to Atlanta, Georgia in the USA to celebrate his daughter's birthday.
Speaking at the Annual Interfaith Conference in Abuja, President Jonathan, however, assured citizens that the Federal Government was ready to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.
Mad man and his Ebola
"It is unfortunate that one mad man brought Ebola to us, but we have to contain it. As a government, we promise that we will do everything humanly possible to contain the Ebola virus."
Further, the President hinted that the Federal Government had planned to rally the 36 state governors and their health commissioners to rescue the nation from further spread of the disease.
Continuing he said: "On Wednesday, I will meet with governors of the states, and they must come with their commissioners for health. We must make sure that every state is prepared. Where they lack, the Federal Government will support them."
He assured that his discussion with the head of the World Health Organisation, WHO, had given him more information about the virus, assuring the gathering that the virus will be stopped from causing more harm.
"My conversation with the WHO D-G, Dr Margaret Chan was revealing. She said 60 per cent of the transmission was spread during burials. That is why in my announcement; I've been saying that people should be careful about burials.
"Some people like burial ceremonies. This is not the time for burial ceremony, somebody is dead, he is dead, leave him there. This is not the best time for those ceremonies.
"If he is dead, he is already dead, Sawyer that brought this Ebola to Nigeria; his sister died of Ebola, and he started acting somehow, his country asked him not to leave the country, let them observe him, but the crazy man decided to leave and found his way here."
10 Ebola cases in Lagos
Earlier, the Federal Government confirmed another Ebola case in Lagos, bringing the total number of Ebola Virus Disease victims to 10, even as it was disclosed that the number of primary and secondary contacts of the index case placed under surveillance or isolation, had risen to 177, from 139 announced Friday last week.
Giving update of the Ebola situation in the country, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu told a world media briefing in Abuja, that of the 10 cases, two have died (the Liberian American and the Nigerian nurse) while eight are alive and currently on treatment. "This is the situation 22 days since the dreaded EVD first landed in Nigeria," he declared.
Chukwu said all the 10 infected were people who had direct contact with late Patrick Sawyer, noting that at the sub-regional level, the Ebola Virus Disease was discussed as a substantive agenda during the Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on July 9, 2014 in Accra, Ghana.
US$3.5m donation to Ebola Fund
Citing efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the West African sub-region, the Minister remarked that Nigeria, as usual, played its leading, pioneering and compassionate role during the summit with the first and only donation of US$3.5 million humanitarian and capacity building aid to the three affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, and the ECOWAS Ebola Fund.
The minister, who briefed the press along other ministers -- Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Mallam; Interior, Mr. Abba Moro; Special Duties, Mr. Tanimu Turaki and Information, Mr. Labaran Maku said: "Nigeria wishes to emphasise that it essentially remained an Ebola Virus-free country until this incidence of importation and unfortunate contamination. We will continue to work with all stakeholders, local and international partners to maximize on this and intensify efforts to contain and treat the existing cases."
Chukwu further stated that the "Liberian Government has expressed its deepest sympathies and regrets that Mr. Sawyer had even embarked on this tragic journey, which has brought needless sufferings, death and has placed an unnecessary stress on our health system. In the same spirit, we share in solidarity, the grief of the governments and people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as we confront this challenge together."
Don't see Liberia in bad light
He urged Nigerians not to see Liberia and her citizens in bad light considering the harmonious relationship the two countries have had over the years.
"The government of Nigeria shall continue to discharge its responsibilities within the sub-region as we collectively confront and stop this outbreak of Ebola."
Chukwu however, told journalists that aside from working with the US government on how to assist, government was also looking at other options in terms of drugs that could revive Ebola patients.
He said Nigeria's quest to get hold of drugs that will bring relief to Ebola patients is "still work-in-progress" adding that, healthcare workers entrusted with providing care to patients have been given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as measure to prevent them from contracting the virus.
NMA strike not affecting national response
Chukwu, who stated that the Ebola virus still remained restricted to Lagos State, also reiterated the resolve of the Federal Government to find a solution to the lingering crisis between it and the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, especially the need to call off the nationwide strike.
He expressed optimism that the crisis would be settled soon, but maintained that "the NMA strike is not affecting the treatment of Ebola patients."
New trauma centre launched in Abuja
At the formal commissioning of a world-class Trauma Centre at the National Hospital in Abuja, government assured the populace about the provision of incentives that would motivate existing local health manpower and also encourage Nigerian health experts based abroad to return.
Vice President, Namadi Sambo, who represented the President, said the Centre would bring quality healthcare closer to more Nigerians and also reduce the depletion of scarce foreign exchange due to medical tourism.
"We are modernising medical diagnostics and upgrading several tertiary healthcare facilities to meet the standards existing in those countries where Nigerians seek foreign medical treatment. We have also progressively improved health care financing and priority interventions."
The centre, first of its kind in the country, is expected to provide the highest level of trauma management for severely injured patients in a timely and cost effective manner, and has been appropriately equipped with modern facilities.
Lamenting that Ebola outbreak which has claimed several lives in some West Africans countries including two deaths in Nigeria, the Vice President re-echoed that government was pained that the emergence of the disease in Nigeria was due to migratory transmission.
"It is important that we avoid panic and take the highest possible care in hygiene and contact and by adhering to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.
"We have put measures and facilities in place for detection and management and are working in concert with the international community to stem its spread. We must remain at high alert."
In his remarks, the Minister of Health said the Centre has capacity and capability to handle all trauma cases including burns, fires, accidents, terrorism or injuries from any other man-made disaster.
He noted that the centre was constructed out of the clear need as there has been an increase in the number of cases of people sustaining physical trauma in a variety of ways and the frequency in which mass casualties occur. The Trauma Centre will also be a training ground for paramedics in the country.
He disclosed that the National Hospital is one of the 12 hospitals that have been commissioned for feasibility study for Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
It could be recalled that within the initial 48 hours of the death of the first Nigerian from EVD, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan approved the National Ebola Virus Disease Emergency Containment Plan with immediate cash backing of N1.9 billion which is about 12Million USD to further complement the containment efforts already in place.
"The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies, works very closely with the World Health Organisation, WHO, UNICEF, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, local authorities and other international partners to further deepen and broaden these containment efforts. We shall single out the WHO and the CDC for special commendation for their understanding and continuous support in this challenging moment; particularly for the partnership and most importantly for the capacity building of our Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC," he remarked
Fashola meets royal fathers, LG bosses, others
In a related development, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has disclosed that five of the 10 Nigerians infected with Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, admitted at the isolation ward at Mainland Hospital, Yaba, are currently responding to treatment and in stable condition.
Fashola who took time out of the usual weekly state Executive Meeting Council, had interactive sessions with traditional rulers, religious leaders, council chairmen and health workers on the EVD, with the Oba of Lagos, HRH Rilwanu Akiolu in attendance.
Fashola said that the disease is not a death sentence, provided the right medical treatment is applied on the patients who have contacted the virus, saying "we have had cases of patients who survived the virus in other countries."
"The idea of cure is not there and the idea of bitter kola is unverified. Bathing with salt is also unverified. As today, we have recorded two death cases: the Liberian and the nurse. We now have 10 persons in isolation that are receiving treatment. Eight of them have been confirmed positive to Ebola Virus Disease. We are still waiting for the result of the remaining two persons.
"The mortality rate is reducing from 90 percent at the moment. All of them (patients) are stable, which means that they are not deteriorating. Five of them have really improved. This means they are fighting back. It confirms that Ebola is not automatic death sentence if we do the right thing at the right time. We should talk to our people. "The work is yet to finish; we are tracking more of those who had contact with the late Liberian, Mr. Patrick Sawyer," he added.
Fashola noted that experience have shown that the human body could fight back through constant hydration, intravenous infusion and regular administration of antibiotics.
Disclosing plans to establish another isolation centre in Ikorodu, Fashola urged chairmen of the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas, to provide safety kits for health workers at the Primary Health Care, PHC centres in their councils. "If we want them to work, we must show concern for their welfare. This is because if we have nine persons and one escaped, we are still at risk until we find the tenth one. So, there is no 99 percent in the case of Ebola. Everyone who had contacts with the virus must be contained and checked. Some may be slightly ill. Some may be moderately ill. Some may be seriously ill; we have to deal with them according to their state of health.
"It may take two weeks, it may take four weeks, it may take two months, it may take eight months. If we can find all the contacts, we are in control. Now, it is a question of treatment and survival of those who we have been isolated. If you look at what we have now, only one case has resulted in the infection of 10 persons.
LAWMA cautions on waste handling
In a related development, the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, has urged residents in the state to shun the idea of patronising cart-pushers, often identified as potential vectors in the spread of communicable diseases.
Speaking during a sensitization workshop on prevention of Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, and other communicable diseases, Managing Director, LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, cautioned about the extent of exposure and vulnerability of workers to disease carrying vectors. He expressed the need to continue the protection of the workforce by strict compliance to the use of Personal Protection Equipment, PPE, complemented by adequate sensitization among staff and clients.
Oresanya, therefore, advised service providers to be alert and to always protect themselves and their employees against the spread of the deadly scourge by adopting the right safety measures, such as thorough hand-washing and used of gloves, face masks and other items of safety kits, in the execution of their duties.
He warned that the management would not hesitate to sanction any service provider who neglects to ensure that staff and workers under their supervision comply fully with the directive on the use of safety kits, while on duty.
Oresanya, urged the citizens to give their waste only to designated Public Sector Participants, PSP, in their areas, and also called on operators of beauty salons to consider their waste as medical waste which is highly contagious.
"Such waste should be stored in safety boxes being given freely by Lagos State Government through LAWMA to hospitals and healthcare institutions in the state. Healthcare waste generators must equally be informed to give their waste to only registered healthcare waste collectors." LAWMA boss cautioned
General Manager, Administration, LAWMA, Mrs. Abimbola Jijohun-Ogun, in her contribution, informed the participants to take advantage of the free safety boxes and medical waste colour coded bags by calling the LAWMA toll-free lines to inform the authority if they encounter any person showing symptoms of the Ebola Virus in the course of their duties.