Port Harcourt — A doctor in Port Harcourt has died of the Ebola disease and about 100 people placed under surveillance, federal and River state officials announced at separate events yesterday.
The stunning disclosure came barely 24 hours after federal authourities announced brightly on Wednesday that the disease had been contained with only one case remaining.
Rivers State commissioner for Health Dr Sampson Parker confirmed yesterday the death of a Port Harcourt based medical doctor Dr Sam Enemou over medical complications with the dreaded Ebola virus.
Parker, who spoke to journalist in Port Harcourt, said Enemou died on August 24 as a result of what was suspected to be Ebola virus disease.
"It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you that the ebola virus has claimed its first victim in Rivers State (and the first outside Lagos).
Dr. Iyke Sam Enemuo who died last week Friday, August 22, 2014 as a result of what was suspected to be ebola virus disease.
"The Rivers State Ministry of Health on becoming aware of the conditions of his death, immediately commenced investigations and contact tracing.
"As at today, about one hundred 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 in Rivers State. The locations are being decontaminated"
"From our investigations some facts have emerged.
"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, Nigeria 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 where he presented with symptoms of fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. In the course of treatment, the managing physician became suspicious and took samples for investigation.
A few days after, Dr. Iyke Enemuo died on August 22, 2014. His body was deposited at a mortuary in Port Harcourt.
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.
"A few hours ago, results of the test carried out on samples taken from Dr. Enemuo came back and was positive of Ebola Viral disease
"The diplomat who was seen by late Dr. Iyke Enemuo is alive and well," he said.
He also said the officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and other international agencies are already working with the state ministry of health.
Meanwhile, at the press briefing in Abuja, the Minister of Health Professor Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu said at present the number of Ebola cases stands at 15 due to the latest discovery from Port Harcourt.
He said the wife of the doctor is being tested after showing symptoms and that the results were being expected late yesterday, adding that if she is confirmed positive, she could bring to 16, the number of confirmed cases of the virus.
He said the diplomat with ECOWAS evaded surveillance in Lagos in the late week of July and travelled to Port Harcourt.
"We now understand he consulted with a doctor and was apparently treated for some symptoms," said Chukwu.
"After four days, following a manhunt for him, he returned to Lagos by which time he was found to be without symptoms.
"Even though he does not have Ebola but further laboratory tests indicate he had suffered Ebola," added Chukwu.
"The Incident Management Committee has already deployed a very strong team to Port Harcourt to work with the health authorities of Rivers State. Just like the situation has effectively been managed in Lagos and Enugu, the situation in Port Harcourt will also similarly be effectively managed and we have begun to do so".
He pointed out that the number of deaths from Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria, therefore, is now six (6), the index case (Mr. Sawyer), the four (4) 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.
"We will surely handle Port Harcourt, as we handled Enugu and Lagos," Chukwu said.
He said the diplomat's 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."
The doctor is believed to have died from the disease in the shortest period, sparking interest in further dynamics of the virus and its interactions with human immune system.
"A lot has to be studied. There are things we know we might still learn about this disease."
All the cases so far confirmed have been limited to people who had direct or indirect contact with Sawyer, prompting the health ministry's declaration on Tuesday that Nigeria had managed to contain the outbreak.
He called on the residents in Port Harcourt to remain calm which urging those in surveillance to obey all the instructions of the health team so as to assist to contain the virus
But the health and information ministries have warned against media headlines that have given the impression that Nigeria is free of the virus, even though some patients are still on treatment or under surveillance.
While media must not create panic, there's also "no need for euphoria" or complacency, said Chukwu.
"We've contained this disease, but [it] is still with us, and until we discharge the last patient, we cannot say we are free of it."