As Nigeria records the second death relating to the deadly Ebola virus, the Federal Government on Wednesday said it has reached out to the United States Center for Disease Control, to request for the unapproved Ebola drug ZMapp, for the treatment of affected persons in Nigeria.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku and the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, who briefed State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said government was awaiting the response of the request it made last night to the center in the US.
According to Onyebuchi, Ebola is a national emergency with everyone in the world at risk particularly with Nigeria’s imported case, confirmed that Nigeria has recorded it’s first indigenous case with the death of a Nigerian nurse who was infected with the Ebola virus while attending to the Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who died on July 25th.
He further confirmed seven new cases that were in contact with the Liberian-American patient had also caught the virus.
Chukwu who said Council focused mainly on the measures being taken with the outbreak of Ebola virus in Lagos to check, said all the persons who had primary contact with the Ebola victim have been traced and isolated, as well as families members who had contacted with the primary contacts to the Liberian dead victims.
“We have a national emergency, indeed the world is at risk. Nobody is immune. The experience in Nigeria has alerted the world that it takes just one individual to travel by air to a place to begin an outbreak.
“It is an emergency and secondly everyone is at risk. We have recorded seven confirmed cases, that were in contact with the first imported case from Liberia. Yesterday, August 5th, we recorded first known Nigerian to die. She was one of the nurses that attended to the Ebola patient. All that have been identified are people who had direct contact with Liberian. A total of four are in isolation ward and five are confirmed cases.
“That is why we are protecting the identify of those affected. Stigmatisation will not solve the problem, it is maintaining of good personal hygiene that can solve it,” Chukwu said.
He stated that the 24/7 emergency operations centre will be fully functional as from today (Thursday) and will be headed by Dr Faisal Shuaibu, the incident manager with a six-man inter-agency team drawn from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Lagos to complete the setting up of the centre. They will be joined by the other personnel from Lagos state government and the federal hospitals in the Lagos area as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Chukwu further announced that plans have been concluded to procure isolation tents at the cost of N20 million each for each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to quicken the pace of providing isolation wards.
He regretted that some persons in Lagos were kicking against the set of the center in their neighbourhood, while calling on the media to help educate Nigerians of the importance of having the facility near them, noted that the proximity of the centers can help save lives and stall spread of the virus.
The Health Minister also said the government was setting up a special team to provide counselling and psychosocial support to patients, identified contacts and their families.
He said the Federal government’s team comprising himself and Maku will visit Lagos on Friday to assess the situation on ground, adding “Government will ensure that no Nigerian out of carelessness will get this disease”.
He emphasis the issue of personal hygiene, saying, “When you don’t need to give handshake please don’t, wash your hands and use hand senitizer as often as you can in the interest of public health”.
The Health Minister also corrected the impression that everyone is meant to wear hand gloves, saying only health personnel and immigration officers are most vulnerable.
He said, “The general public does not need hand gloves. Health personnel are the most vulnerable and they change the gloves regularly and do not take it home. Also those at immigration points are advised to wear gloves and to change regularly. The ebola organism is weak outside the body so frequent washing of hands and using hand senitizer is advisable. Don’t try to form your own liquid”.
He also advised families of affected persons not to share same bedsheets, pillow cases and towels, as they stand a great risk of contacting the virus through bodily fluid. The disease, he said is both contagious and infectious. “If you are close to affected person you can contact via sneezing, coughing as they pass out droplets”.
He stated that the virus is not infectious during incubation period, adding that in five days time it will make 21 days Late Patrick Sawyer came into the country, and only then will those exposed to him be confirmed to be free or confirmed cases.
On the issue of constitution backing cases being quarantined, Chukwu said, “The constitution provides that government has the right to quarantine anybody suspected to have Ebola in the interest of public health”.
Maku on his part also advised Nigerians to be weary of quacks who will want to take advantage of the hapless victims. He said, “Any substance or drug that has not been proven and announced by ministry of health or NAFDAC is not a cure, ignore it”.
It could be recalled that the Ebola drug which Nigeria formerly requested for was administered on Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, two American aid workers who were gravely ill, as a result of infection with the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.
Both aid workers had shown improvement after taking the drug by a San Diego drug company which had three doses of an experimental Ebola medicine that showed promise in monkeys but had never been tested in humans.