ABUJA--The battle to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, in Nigeria suffered a setback, yesterday, as the virus evaded a surveillance team in Lagos and claimed its first victim, a medical doctor in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Governor of the state, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu both confirmed the news.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Governor Amaechi in a special broadcast said: "We woke up this morning to the sad confirmation that the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease has claimed its first victim in Rivers State.
Dr. Iyke Sam Enemuo died last Friday, August 22, 2014 as a result of what was suspected to be Ebola Virus Disease. The State Ministry of Health on becoming aware of the conditions of his death, immediately commenced investigations and contact tracing.
As at today, about 100 contacts from a hotel, patients of Dr. Enemuo and patients of the hospital where the late Enemuo was treated until his demise, have been identified and restricted. The different locations are being decontaminated." Governor Amaechi in the broadcast said:
Our investigations reveal that:
*A staff of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the team that received late Dr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American diplomat, who died of Ebola haemorrhagic disease in Lagos, made a trip to Port Harcourt, where he checked into a hotel and met with Dr. Iyke Sam Enemuo.
*About a week after his departure, Dr. Iyke Enemuo took ill and was rushed to a hospital with symptoms of fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. In the course of treatment, the managing physician became suspicious and took blood samples for investigation.
*A few days later, Dr. Iyke Enemuo died, precisely on August 22, 2014. Dr. Iyke Enemuo's widow, who is also a medical doctor and who cared for him during his illness has taken ill. She is being quarantined.
*The diplomat who was seen by late Dr. Iyke Enemuo is alive and well.
Governor Amaechi assured that, "there's no need to panic. Everyone should remain calm and go about their normal businesses. The Government of Rivers State is doing everything possible to contain the effects and spread of the Ebola virus. We have the material and human resources we need to fight and defeat the deadly virus. Officials from the Federal Ministry of Health and other international agencies are already here working with the state Ministry of Health to contain and combat the virus.
"Now, we must all endeavour to adhere to basic hygiene rules. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and avoid unnecessary body contacts like shaking of hands. Anyone with symptoms indicative of diarrhoea, high fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive weakness of the body and unexplained bleeding, should call these our Ebola emergency numbers: 08167733939, 07036321076, 08033124314 or our State emergency call centre: 112.
"It is a known fact that early detection and appropriate medical attention increases the chances of survival of an infected person. People have survived Ebola and more people can survive it. There is no need or reason to hide or run away. Seek immediate medical help. Call our Ebola help lines. Together, we can contain and defeat the Ebola virus".
EVD cases now 15
Giving an update on the disease at a press conference in Abuja, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said the number of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases in the country has risen from 13 to 15.
According to him, "the total number of EVD cases so far reported in Nigeria stands at 15; the total number of cases treated at our isolation ward stands at 13; the total number of those discharged is seven; the total number of deaths from those treated in Lagos is five and the total number currently under treatment is one and the person is stable and improving clinically,"
He said: "The additional two cases were not treated at the isolation ward in Lagos. One of them is a primary contact of the index case, Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian American, who brought the virus to Nigeria. Even though the extra case does not presently have EVD, further laboratory tests indicated he had suffered EVD. The primary contact of Mr. Sawyer evaded the surveillance team in the last week of July and travelled out of Lagos to Port Harcourt where he consulted a doctor and was apparently treated for some symptoms of the virus.
"After four days, following a manhunt for him, he returned to Lagos by which time he was found to be without symptoms. This case would have been of no further interest since he had completed the 21 days of surveillance without any other issue, but for the fact that the doctor who treated him died last Friday, August 22, 2014. Following the report of this death by the doctor's widow the next day, the case has been thoroughly investigated and laboratory analysis showed that this doctor died from EVD.
"As a result, several contacts have now been traced, registered and placed under surveillance. However, because the widow is now symptomatic, she has been quarantined pending the outcome of laboratory tests on her," the minister said.
He, however, noted that the Incident Management Committee has already deployed a team to Port Harcourt to work with the health authorities of Rivers State. He assured that, just like the situation has effectively been managed in Lagos and Enugu, the situation in Port Harcourt will also similarly be effectively handled and that the Ministry of Health had started to do so.
He added that, "the total number of persons under surveillance include six in Enugu, 70 in Port Harcourt, (of all these 70, only one person has so far shown symptoms), 141 in Lagos. Since we started this journey of Ebola virus in Nigeria, 200 contacts had completed their 21 days and we are no longer tracking them.
"The total number of deaths from Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria is, therefore, now six; the index case Mr. Sawyer, the four primary contacts that died in the isolation ward in Lagos, and a doctor that died in Port Harcourt, whose blood sample tested positive after death. Also, 70 persons have been placed under surveillance in Port Harcourt."
"I want to charge the residents of Port Harcourt not to panic over this situation as the experience we have gathered from Lagos and Enugu respectively indicate that there is no cause for alarm when you have the government fully in control of the situation."
The Minister appealed to all contacts under surveillance in Lagos and Enugu to abide by the advice given to them by the Incident Management Committee.
"With regard to Enugu, all secondary contacts will be followed up till tomorrow (today) when they are all expected to be discharged from our surveillance.
"His body has not been disposed of yet. The contact team moved immediately to Port Harcourt last Saturday, then the treatment group moved in yesterday morning (Wednesday). The mobile laboratory will move in to Port Harcourt on Saturday. Nobody should panic. We are on top of it."
No mass gatherings
"We are asking people not to hold mass gatherings, but if you must hold mass gatherings, you must meet with us. If we review and find out that we cannot guarantee, the Minister of Health will use the power that he has. If he said it cannot hold because of Ebola, it cannot hold.
"We are discouraging mass gatherings. You need to take permission from us when you are organizing mass gatherings, otherwise, we may disrupt it suddenly. You shouldn't blame us for that. We are very serious about it.
"If you are going to do any mass gathering outside religious worship which we have generally granted, but anything beyond that, you must let us know. It does not mean that we have banned public gatherings, but if you must hold it, you must let the health authorities know so that they work with you.
"If in the end, the health authorities are not convinced that it is not a risky business, we may stop you or withhold you and clear you at the appropriate time. If working with you, we find out that we can actually put it under control, we then clear you to proceed. We are not panicking about it but we want to do things in a mature way to protect every resident of Nigeria and protect the rest of the world".