As more people who came in contact with the Patrick Sawyer, the first Ebola fatality in Nigeria begin to show symptoms associated with the virus, the Nigerian government said it has reached out to United States health authorities for access to the experimental drug used to treat two American volunteer doctors who were infected with the disease while treating Ebola patients in Liberia.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, told Journalists that Nigeria government is in consultation with the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, CDC, to acquire the “secret serum” used in the treatment of American doctors, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. The experimental “secret Serum” is said to have had an almost immediate effect on the doctors and their health improved considerably.
Though it reportedly proved effective in the treatment of primates, the Americans were the first humans to be treated with the drug known as “ZMapp,” and developed by a San Diego-based biotech firm, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.
“We are in touch with the Americans. Yesterday, I spoke on telephone with the Director of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Tom Freiden. We spoke at length, and we have exchanged emails. Yesterday, I inaugurated the Treatment Research Group and one of its terms of reference is to collaborate with similar working groups across the world. Now that they have started work, they will get in touch with the Americans and understand what they are doing and whether we have access to similar opportunity,” said Mr Chukwu.
The minister added that he has confidence in the committee of medical and health experts constituted by the government to develop a drug for the treatment of the virus.
“Nobody says that new, fresh ideas cannot come out of Nigeria. We should not underestimate the intelligence of Nigerians. I do not underestimate the intelligence of our professionals, I believe something positive is going to come out.”
Meanwhile, despite being on a five-week long strike, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has set up a committee to combat the spread of thr virus. Speaking at a press conference to sensitise the public of preventive measures against the virus, the Chairman of the Lagos chapter of the NMA, Tope Ojo, said a team of doctors from the state have already volunteered to help patients at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos.
“Strike or no strike, we must respond to emergencies. Our doctors are at Mainland Hospital, Yaba, where isolated contacts are being monitored. There are seven committees working on the management of the disease at the centre in Lagos and our members are part of the various committees,” he said.
“When there is disaster outbreak, you find out that there will be response by NMA. The issue of strike will not affect our involvement. The NMA is a responsible body and I can assure you that in as much as we don’t pray for natural disasters, NMA will definitely respond. We worked all through the night trying to find out who should be here or there today. It is not a question of if the hospital is on today we work more than what we have been doing.
“But the committee where we are having challenges getting volunteers is case management. This is the people that work directly with confirmed and suspected cases.
“Look at the protective measures that doctors in Liberia and Guinea wear. They are well protected, yet some of them still caught it. Our doctors are worried about the danger it poses to their lives and they need to be reassured. We understand their fears and we are making moves to confirm the level of preparedness of the government for doctors.”
Mr. Ojo also added that apart from the doctor who is confirmed to have Ebola, a matron at the hospital is also showing symptoms of the virus.
“We know that the infected doctor is stable, however, the matron is now showing symptoms. But everybody including the experts from the World Health Organisation are doing all they can.”