HOPES of immediate relief for victims of the Ebola Virus Disease following reports that doses of an experimental drug, nano-silver, had been delivered were dimmed yesterday. The United States Food and Drug Administration said the drug is a pesticide and warned those claiming that it could prevent or treat Ebola to desist from doing so.
The US agency said it had received consumer complaints about the Ebola claims. "Individuals promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face FDA action," it said.
Silver has been used as antibacterial for centuries. Tiny silver particles known as nano-silver have controversially been incorporated into a variety of consumer products such as socks and bedding to help block odours caused by bacteria and mold
This came as doctors and nurses attending to victims of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, at Mainland Hospital, Lagos isolation centre, downed tools following allegation of negligence by concerned relatives and associates of the female medical doctor and health workers who contracted the EVD from the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.
The concerned group of persons at a media briefing in Lagos, last Thursday, shared gloomy experiences while sending an SOS to the international community on behalf of the victims who they alleged were not being given adequate attention and care they deserved.Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, who disclosed the development at a media briefing in Lagos, however, said he had appealed to the health workers on the need to get back to work.
This came amid cheering news that 61 of the over 198 people under surveillance have been released and experts said that the disease might be controlled within 180 days.
Meanwhile, Governor Fashola said yesterday that Lagos State was yet to receive the experimental Ebola drug and a kobo out of the N1.9 billion Federal Government intervention fund.
Speaking on the health workers' strike that would have worsened the situation but a prompt intervention, the governor said: "The report reaching me about two hours ago was that some of the health workers at the centre felt unappreciated and decided to stop work because of media reports that they were not working effectively to save the lives of the victims. We do not need that at the moment. While we sympathise with the victims, the health workers are doing their best to care for the victims. We sympathise with the victims who were affected by the virus, we understand the trauma and concern the family members are going through. But when all of that is taking into account, it is not true that that we are not taking care of the patients."
On the reality on ground, he stated :"We are gaining capacity daily. This is not what we expected and it is not what we planned for and getting people who are sufficiently knowledgeable and skillful to go into the isolation centre is quite challenging. It is a matter of monumental courage for those people who have signed up and we commend them for that.
"There is personnel capacity issue of those who can go into the centre and care for the patients, in a way that they will not be infected by the virus. The Personally Protective Equipment, PPE, they use is very real so that they are protected. The issue we have now is that teams are working flat-out and therefore there will be no opportunity to segregate any patients. There will be no such opportunity.
"My appeal to the people is that more health workers should sign up and from what I was told by experts, even if one is the best physician in the world, the person cannot enter the isolation ward. He or she has to be trained on how to kit up and get out of the centre and the training takes between five and seven days to achieve.
"People must understand the process required. And when it appears to the people that nothing was being done, it was because we are still building up capacity at the facility. We are better off today than 10 days ago. We know that it is a complain that comes out of empathy but it is a complain that does not focus on the reality of what is going on."
Fashola who described the reports as "disheartening", also cautioned the media against sensational reports on the Ebola virus disease.
Lagos yet to receive FG intervention fund
On the N1.9 billion intervention fund approved by the Federal Government to fight Ebola in Nigeria, Fashola said, "At the moment, we are yet to receive any money. What we have done is to work with our resources. The isolation centre and other facilities were done by our personnel working with officials of the federal health facilities in Lagos.
"It is not a money issue now. At the moment, it is a personnel, control, knowledge and system issue. It is only when we have put all these into place that we can now beginning to say how much does it cost. It is not money issue. It is not the kind of money that Lagos State government cannot afford. Every help from the Federal Government will be useful. I think what is important is not the money but the fact that even President Goodluck Jonathan has shown some concern to call all the governors and commissioners of all the 36 states to get a full briefing on the risk, process and others.
"I think that is important and that is the kind of leadership that one will expect in this kind of circumstances. "
61 people certified free
Fashola said there is little silver lining since many people who had contacts with victims were not infected. "At the moment, 61 people have been certified negative and they have been freed. This is a virus that will run a maximum of 21 days. What we must do is people show some signs of illness should come in very early so that we can continue to hydrate them, give electrolyte balance so that their nervous system do not go into shock and wherever it is necessary to provide antibiotics for patients; and their body can fight the virus which in the event last no longer than 21 days.
Calls for volunteers
Earlier, at a media briefing at state secretariat, Commissioner for Health Dr. Jide Idris, stressed the need for more volunteers. He said contrary to reports that facility at the infection control centre did not have basic amenities,itt has 40 bed-Complex with male and female wards for confirmed cases; eight bed isolation ward upgraded to suspected cases, backed up by two emergency tents to hold additional 24 suspected cases.
There are also "dedicated borehole; dedicated 60 KVA generator backed -up by a 250 KVA unit for the entire; involvement of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA); two 5000 litre septic tanks one each for urine and faeces, which are decontaminated prior to evacuation."
On the suspected case of Ebola patients at the Igando general Hospital, he said he had called the MD of the hospital and the doctor denied the case.
Nano Silver drug
Asked if Lagos had received the experimental drug, he said: "We had that the drugs in on its way to Lagos but we are yet to take delivery of the drugs. When I go for the evening briefing, I will get a full detail on the drugs. But we have sent our pharmacist to the manufacturers of both drugs to inquire on how best to get the drugs."
Ebola help line
On the complaint that residents do not get prompt response from the help line, the commissioner said, "The help line is jam-packed. At evening session, those managing the Ebola helpline, the face book page, twitter handle give us statistics and sometimes the number of people accessing this forum are over two million. They show maps to buttress their point.
We established this facebook, twitter handles and helpline; we pay for the helpline. This is the only helpline used nationally. They get calls from other states. We will improve the helpline to ensure that people can have quick access to it."
MOE trains 800 health workers, volunteers
Meantime, as parts of measures to contain the rampaging deadly Ebola Virus Diseases in the state, the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of the Environment, MOE, yesterday trained about 800 health workers and volunteers in all the 57 Local Government and Local and Local Council Development Areas on preventive measures.
The state Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Tunji Bello, who made the disclosure at a sensitisation campaign tagged: "Train the trainers' Educative programme", also said that government would not hesitate to invoke any relevant section of the laws on anyone who flouts the environmental laws.
Speaking on the theme of the training, entitled" Creating an Army of Advocacy to Curb the Spread of Ebola Virus through Effective Enlightenment at the Grassroots", Bello insisted that government would henceforth, sanction anyone who engages in open defecation and urination, saying such practices could further lead to the spread of the diseases.
It may take 6 months to control Ebola -Experts
Meanwhile experts said yesterday that the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa will take at least six months to bring under control.
Speaking in Geneva, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) President, Joanne Lui called for strengthened international co-ordination led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The epidemic began in Guinea in February and has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. So far, 1,069 people have died.
Ms Lui said that controlling the outbreak in Liberia - which has recorded more than 300 deaths - was vital to containing the epidemic.
"If we don't stabilise Liberia, we will never stabilise the region. In terms of timeline, we're not talking in terms of weeks, we're talking in terms of months.
We need a commitment for months, at least I would say six months, and I'm being, I would say, very optimistic," she said.
Ms Lui also called for more action from the international community, led by WHO - the UN's health agency. "All governments must act. It must be done now if we want to contain this epidemic. WHO needs to take leadership and bring some strong elements into the field at all operational levels. It's already started but it needs to happen at all levels.
Sola Ogundipe, Clifford Ndujihe, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Adekunle Aliyu Monsur Olowoopejo