18 August 2014

Nigeria: Ebola - Govt Commences Pre-Clinical Studies of Claims On Drugs

Following the failure of the Nano Silver experimental drugs to scale through screening by the National Health Research Ethics Committee, the federal government has now commenced pre-clinical studies on claims of other drugs.

Co-chairman of the Treatment Research Group Committee on Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Prof. Karniyus Gamaniel, told THISDAY that the new trials and studies would bridge the gap caused by the decision to jettison the Nano Silver drug, which is available on the internet and was classified as a pesticide by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The research group committee was setup by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu two weeks ago in response to the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.

The committee made of top-notch professionals and scientists in the health sector was mandated to conduct research on drugs for the virus.

Speaking on the way forward, Gamaniel said: "We are actually working hard to bridge the gap." Gamaniel, who is also the Director General of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), informed THISDAY that the committee had commenced the examination of pre-clinical studies on some low hanging drugs, explaining that these are trial drugs that could be ready for use by humans.

"Doing the pre-clinical studies will enable the administration of the drugs on humans," as part of treatment for Ebola virus.

FG Clarifies Identity of Discharged Doctor

Also, the federal government yesterday in Abuja provided clarification on the identity of the female doctor who was discharged at the weekend and declared free from the Ebola virus, stating that she was not Dr. Adadevor. In a statement issued by the health minister's Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Dan Nwomeh, the government said the misconception and error mistook the female doctor for Adadevor.

Nwomeh in the statement said: "It has been brought to the attention of the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu that the first Nigerian to be diagnosed of Ebola Virus Disease, a female doctor who treated the index case and who was discharged home from the ward yesterday, is being reported in some sections of the media to be one Dr. Adadevor.

"The minister wishes to clarify that the name of the patient is not Dr. Adadevor. This should be noted. The minister's statement yesterday indicated that it was a female doctor did not disclose the name of the patient."

The statement came amid confusion on the health of Adadevor, who many hoped had recovered after several reports indicating that his situation had worsened. Also, the discharge of the female doctor had given rise to hopes that the condition of five other victims whom the government said were on the mend, would bring about more positive news.

Fashola: Patients Are Receiving the Best Care

Meanwhile, the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday denied the charge made last Thursday by the families and colleagues of the victims of the Ebola infection that they had been neglected by the government.

The families and colleagues had also called on the US government to intervene to avert their death from the disease. However, in a state broadcast, Fashola said it was not true that they had been neglected or there was a paucity of fund, stating: "They are receiving the best care that the experts have recommended to us, given the circumstances."

He reminded Lagosians that the state was perhaps facing its biggest challenge to public health and the safety of human lives with the discovery of the Ebola virus in the state, which "poses a threat to the primary purpose of our government which is to save lives".

He added that in the light of the text messages, e-mails and telephone calls that he had received, it had become necessary to reiterate the measures adopted by the Lagos State Government to keep the people in the state safe.

"This has become imperative moreso in the light of allegations that are making the rounds, either that victims are being neglected, or that a useful drug or vaccine is being rejected or that there is a shortage of funds. I wish to state very categorically that none of these is true.

"What is true is that we should perhaps never have been in this situation, but we are now in it. What is true is that the Ebola virus did not break out from within Nigeria, it was imported into Nigeria. "What is true is that we have followed all the contacts that we know who have had primary and secondary contacts with the patient who imported the virus into our state, or with people who had contact with him.

"Because we had to react to an unexpected situation, we had to react in a proper and methodical way, according to acceptable global health standards," he said.

Although he acknowledged the death of four persons, Fashola assured Lagos residents that it would be 'fair to say that we are not yet at an epidemic stage and we are determined to do everything not to get to that stage; because of the grave consequences to the safety of human lives".

He added: "We have provided information to the public on all state-owned media, while the private media have commendably joined in this effort. There is also information available on the social media platform.

"Since Monday last week, precisely on the 11th of August, I commenced meetings on an almost daily basis with stakeholders in our society, religious leaders, traditional rulers, market men and women, community development associations, to brief them of the risk, to re-assure them that we are daily gaining control, to advise them and all of you to be cautious but not to panic.

"My view of the fact that we are gaining control is informed by verifiable facts that I receive daily from our health workers that all the cases of those who have either unfortunately died, or those who are sick, and those who are contacts under surveillance are directly traceable to the imported case.

"There is also now the news that a confirmed victim has fully recovered, which reinforces the advice from our experts that it is not an automatic death sentence.

"This is encouraging news from which our containment strategy can profit greatly, because it means that we do not have any case of unknown origin, which will raise the risk of an epidemic."

Fashola said the challenge of the virus was big, but the state government's resolve to contain and defeat the scourge was even bigger, adding, "That resolve is demonstrated by the courage shown by the first set of health workers at state and federal levels who stood up to be counted, and the leadership of the state and federal Ministries of Health with the support of our international partners.

"In spite of fear, they stood up to be counted at a time of grave danger. We should salute their courage, professionalism, patriotism and humanitarian disposition.

"They are the heroes and heroines that we have looked for, for a long time. I cannot thank them enough." While assuring the health workers of their safety and promising to give them the confidence to proceed, he appealed to the public not do anything to distract them or demotivate them.

"What they need now is our encouragement and support to gain even stronger control of the situation. What they do not need are rumours and the distractions that they can bring with them. "I appreciate the concerns and anxiety that friends and relatives of sick victims must be going through. I assure you that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

"I understand that you expect special care for your loved ones, and this is to be expected. I assure you that they are receiving the best care that the experts have recommended to us, given the circumstances; because they say that this is the best way to proceed especially because experienced personnel in Ebola containment and management have always been a challenge.

"What will be helpful to the situation now is additional medical personnel, who are willing to volunteer to join hands with those on the frontline."

He cautioned that volunteers who sign up cannot immediately start to participate in the isolation ward where sick people are being treated, no matter how qualified and experienced they are.

"They must undergo a few days of training by our international body of advisers and understand the protocol for operation in the isolation ward for their own safety, and the sustenance of the containment plan to stop the virus from spreading.

"To those who are seeking to do brisk business from this situation, I offer a word of caution and re-assessment. This is not our way. I must also say to those who are seeking to raise funds that we appreciate your concerns but we are not yet at a fund-raising stage and I cannot foresee that eventuality," Fashola added.

He stressed that Lagos has enough resources to fund everything that is needed, pointing out, "This is what your taxes can do in emergencies. Our House of Assembly has thankfully approved a request for any needed expenditure."

He further acknowledged that President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister for Health had shown the appropriate levels of concern about the national and global risks that Ebola poses and expressed confidence that they would provide funds should the need arise.

"The combined team of state and federal personnel, our international partners, are daily sharing information with the public and the federal government about the status of the patients and contacts in a transparent way, and we should all please listen to them. They are the ones who have the facts.

"What all of us must do is to follow all their advice, especially about reporting any suspected cases and about increasing our personal hygiene by constantly washing of our hands with soap and water. "We should stop unhygienic practices of urinating in public and defaecating in public because those are body fluids and waste through which the virus is known to thrive."

He reminded Lagosians that this week and the next one would be the most challenging that the state expects to pass through, saying. "Last week, we cleared a total of 61 contacts after the 21 days surveillance which is the known lifespan of the virus.

"These people were not sick. They were persons who needed to be monitored because of real or suspected contacts to be certain that they did not eventually fall sick.

"We cautiously wait to see how many more people will be cleared and hope that there will be no new cases. Nevertheless, our strategy is to prepare for the worst by making plans to expand the facility to take any new case, while we hope for the best."

Fashola noted that this was the first time that the virus had infected people in an urban centre, making "it is a steep learning curve for everybody but it presents a huge opportunity for us as a people to show the world how to overcome it. "With your support and understanding, we will do no less, because we intend to overcome and defeat this threat."

Enugu is Virus-free

Also assuring the people of his state, the Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime yesterday said that the state was free of the Ebola virus. Speaking through his Special Assistant on Health Matters, Johnny Ezievuo, the governor clarified that the state government had mobilised all health institutions and personnel to effectively contain the spread of the dreaded disease.

Ezievuo explained that all those who were suspected to have had contact with the nurse who travelled from Lagos to Enugu have been investigated and had been given cleared of any infection.

According to Ezievuo, "Even with that assurance, we are not taking anything for granted. We are taking all precautionary measures to ensure that nothing is left to chance. Interestingly, health care delivery is one of the cardinal programmes of Governor Chime's administration."

Ezievuo observed that all the programmes of the state government were geared towards ensuring that people are sensitised on how to prevent the spread of the virus.


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