29 August 2014

Nigeria: Amaechi Urges Calm As Rivers Confirms First Ebola Death

Photo: MSF
Ebola infections can only be diagnosed definitively in a laboratory using five different tests. A blood sample is taken and the laboratory determines the result within a few hours.

Port Harcourt and Abuja — Following the confirmation of the death of a victim, Dr. Ike Samuel Enemuo, of the Ebola virus in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the state governor, Chibuike Amaechi, has urged the people of the state to remain calm as the state is capable of containing the spread of the disease.

With the death of Enemuo, the federal government also yesterday revised the number of Ebola cases in the country to 15, including the index case, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, while the total number of cases treated in isolation ward was put at 13.

Briefing the press in Port Harcourt yesterday on the outbreak of the virus in the city, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, said Enemuo, a medical doctor, who had died last Friday from symptoms of fever and diarrhoea, actually died of the Ebola virus.

Parker added that the state Ministry of Health had also placed about 100 persons who had contact with late Enemuo under 24-hour surveillance for possible symptoms of the disease.

He also said his ministry had shut down the late Enemuo's hospital, as well as the Good Heart Hospital, a private health facility in Port Harcourt, where he was treated until his demise and a hotel, where a member of staff of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who was treated by the late medical doctor, stayed while he was in Port Harcourt.

He said the ministry took samples from Enemuo when he died last Friday, adding that the result of the samples, which was released yesterday morning, indicated that he died of the dreaded disease.

According to the commissioner, those quarantined included members of staff of the two hospitals and the hotel, as well as Enemuo's wife who had fallen ill.

Parker stated that the deceased's wife, who is also a medical doctor, had already shown signs of a fever and had been taken in for treatment, adding that any of those quarantined, who showed signs of fever, would be held back for treatment.

According to him, "Dr. Ike Sam Enemuo died last Friday, August 22, 2014, as a result of what was suspected to be Ebola virus. The Rivers State Ministry of Health, on becoming aware of the condition of his death, immediately commenced investigation and contact-tracing.

"As at today (Thursday), about 100 contacts from the hotel, patients of Dr. Enemuo, and patients of the hospital where the late Dr. Enemuo was treated till his demise have been identified and quarantined in Rivers State.

"The locations are being decontaminated. From our investigations, some facts have emerged that a staff of ECOWAS on the team that received the late Dr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American diplomat, who died of Ebola disease in Lagos, made a trip to Port Harcourt, where he checked into a hotel and met Dr. Enemuo.

"About a week after his departure, Dr. Enemuo took ill and was rushed to a hospital where he presented symptoms of a high fever, stooling and vomiting.

"In the course of his treatment, the managing physician became suspicious and took samples for investigation. A few days after, Dr. Enemuo died. His body was deposited at a mortuary in Port Harcourt.

"Dr. 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, the result of the samples taken on Dr. Enemuo came out and it was positive. The diplomat, who was seen by late Enemuo is alive and well."

The commissioner however refused to give the name of the late Enemuo's hospital and the hotel where he met with the diplomat.

While calling on people in the state to be cautious and avoid unnecessary contacts with persons, Parker said the state government has the needed resources and personnel to curb the spread of Ebola in the state.

Amaechi Calls for Calm

Also speaking to residents in Rivers State, Amaechi, in a special broadcast yesterday evening, called on the people to remain calm as the government was doing everything possible to contain the spread and effects of the virus in the state. He said: "My dear people of Rivers State, we woke up this morning to the sad confirmation that the dreaded Ebola virus disease has claimed its first victim in Rivers State.

"Dr. Ike Sam Enemuo died last Friday, August 22, 2014 as a result of what was suspected to be the 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."

He restated that a member of staff of ECOWAS on the team that received late Dr. Patrick Sawyer had checked into a hotel where he met with the late Enemuo.

He assured the people that the state government has the material and human resources needed to fight and defeat the virus, adding that officials from the Federal Ministry of Health and other international agencies were already in Port Harcourt working with the state Ministry of Health to contain and combat the virus.

He called on the people to adhere to the basic rules of hygiene by washing their hands regularly with soap and water and avoid unnecessary body contact 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 our Ebola emergency numbers: 08167733939, 07036321076, 08033124314 or our state emergency call centre: 112," he said.

Gov Visits Quarantine Site

Prior to the broadcast, Amaechi had visited and approved the temporary quarantine site in Oduoha, Emuoha Local Government Area of the state.

He approved the site yesterday evening after a facility inspection with some technical partners. He said plans had been concluded to upgrade the facility to enable experts and medical doctors properly manage and control the spread of the virus in the state.

Amaechi said the involvement of technical partners like the World Health Organisation (WHO), Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) (Doctors without Borders), the US Embassy and the federal government would ensure that drastic measures are put in place to tackle and eliminate the disease.

"This is a temporary approved quarantine site for the Ebola virus and we are working on it to upgrade the facility. The place is a bit out of town and we want to start from here while we continue to search for a permanent site," he said. He advised the youths and people of Oduoha community and its neighbouring communities in the council area not to panic over the temporary site, adding that the Ebola virus is not airborne as confirmed by medical experts. FG: Reported Ebola Cases Now 15

However, following the death of the first victim in Rivers State, the federal government has revised its statistics on the disease. The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday said the number of reported cases in the country now stood at 15, while the total number of cases treated at government's isolation ward is 13 and the total number of those discharged is seven.

According to the minister, "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."

Explaining the reason for the presence of the disease in Rivers State, Chukwu said: "You will notice that the number of cases has increased from 13 to15. You will also notice that this additional two were not treated in the isolation ward in Lagos.

"One of them is a primary contact of the index case (Mr. Patrick Sawyer). Even though presently he does not have EVD but further laboratory tests indicate that he had suffered EVD.

"This primary contact of Mr. Sawyer's evaded our surveillance team in the last week of July 2014 and travelled out of Lagos to Port Harcourt where, as we now understand, he consulted with a doctor and was apparently treated for some symptoms.

"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, 22nd August, 2014."

He also confirmed that the widow of the late medical doctor had been quarantined pending the outcome of laboratory tests on her.

He disclosed that the Incident Management Committee had 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 be effectively managed and we have begun to do so," he assured the nation.

Chukwu stressed: "The total number of deaths from Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria, therefore, is now six: the index case (Mr. Sawyer), the four primary contacts who died in the isolation ward in Lagos, and a doctor who died in Port Harcourt whose blood sample tested positive after death."

The minister called on 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".

Providing more insight on the Rivers Ebola victim, the minister said his body had not been disposed of, adding: "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. Once we get information, no matter the source, even a rumour, we will investigate it and the appropriate treatment will be rendered to that rumour."

Chukwu, who addressed the media alongside the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, went on to state that "if the rumour turns out to be true, we know what to do. If it is false, we know what to do. The same way we handled Lagos and everybody was happy about it, the same way we handled Enugu and the whole world was happy, we will surely handle Port Harcourt. So far, all cases are still traceable to Patrick Sawyer."

On the current situation in Enugu State, he said: "With regards to Enugu, all secondary contacts will be followed up till tomorrow when they are all expected to be discharged from our surveillance."

Regarding the issue of mass gatherings, he clarified: "We are not banning mass gatherings, rather we are discouraging mass gatherings. Any mass gathering that is not really necessary, we are asking that it should not hold, but we are working with all groups."

Maku, on his part, harped on the need for the media to remain committed to providing factual news coverage on issues concerning the Ebola outbreak.

Glaxo's Ebola Vaccine to Be Tested Next Week

Meanwhile, US scientists will begin enrolling patients as early as next week in clinical safety trials of GlaxoSmithKline Plc's (GSK) experimental Ebola vaccine as the death toll from the disease rises in West Africa. The National Institute of Health's (NIH) Vaccine Research Centre received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to start the Phase 1 trial, Michael Kurilla, Director of the Office of Biodefence, Research Resources and Translational Research, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

A Phase 1 trial is the first test of a drug or vaccine in humans to assess safety and whether it works similarly to how it does in animals. The current outbreak has killed 1,500 people in four countries and may soon claim more deaths than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined.

The NIH and London-based Glaxo are jointly developing the experimental vaccine, which doesn't contain any infectious Ebola virus. Health authorities are discussing whether to give the vaccine to at-risk people in West Africa, Kurilla said.

"Exactly how all that will be done is yet to be seen and is a topic of a number" of conference calls every day, he said. Researchers may need to study the vaccine in humans for about a month to assess its effect, Kurilla said. NIH Director, Francis Collins is scheduled to speak today about the agency's work on Ebola vaccines.

GSK declined to comment on the trial, though the company had previously said it was working with regulators on trials.

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