“Burial ceremonies where mourners including family members have direct contact with patients who died of Ebola have also played a role in the spread.”
The Lagos State Government has advised churches, mosques and other religious organisations to suspend all activities that involve large gatherings of people until the Ebola outbreak is brought under control.
Speaking to journalists at the daily briefing on the Ebola outbreak in the state in Alausa, the Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, said this will help prevent the spread of the disease that has so far killed two people in the country.
Mr. Idris also said that of the eight people who have been tested for the virus, four have been confirmed as having the Ebola while one result came back negative. The result of three other persons is still being awaited.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, had on Wednesday morning said apart from the nurse that died on Tuesday, five other persons had tested positive to the virus.
Neither the minister, nor the Lagos commissioner, disclosed the identity of the nurse, with the officials saying they want to avoid stigmatisation of the victim’s family as well as the infected.
The commissioner, however, explained that the female nurse worked at the First Consultant Hospital, where Patrick Sawyer was initially treated when he arrived Nigeria.
He explained that the nurse was already in “a bad condition” when she turned herself in at the isolation centre.
He said the government has stepped up effort to trace both primary and secondary contacts with the index case (Mr. Sawyer). According to him 70 people are currently being monitored while 27 people who had contact with those infected by Mr. Sawyer have been traced as at yesterday and effort is underway to trace others.
Volunteers needed urgently
Describing the situation as dire, Mr. Idris asked for health workers to come out and volunteer to help treat those already admitted.
“More volunteers are urgently needed especially contact trackers, case management personnel especially those with experience and expertise in infectious disease control that is doctors, nurses, and environmental health workers,” he said.
“Government is willing to take care of such volunteers especially in the following areas: Safety to personal health, and life insurance cover.
“Through this medium, I once again allay the fear of health workers who have the requisite expertise to manage these confirmed and probable cases. The bottom line is that if we cannot provide the requisite quality and quantity of health workers needed for the management of these cases, outsiders would find it difficult to come in and help.”
The commissioner then repeated his earlier call to doctors who have been on strike to see this outbreak as an emergency and suspend their strike in the interest of the people.
Mr. Idris also advised family members to be mindful of burial rites where family members have direct contact with suspects who died from the virus.
“Burial ceremonies where mourners including family members have direct contact with patients who died of Ebola have also played a role in the spread and direct contact with dead bodies should be minimized at this period, even as washing and burial or disposal of such bodies should be professionally handled with safety to personal health of handlers being cardinal focus.
Speaking on other plans the government is doing to contain the spread of the virus, Mr. Idris said the Lagos State government is working on creating more spaces to sort the patients based on their nature of contact and state of health.
Earlier at a media briefing in Abuja, the Health Minister had stated some of the effort the government was putting in place to curtail the spread of the disease.
“The 24/7 Emergency Operations Centre which I intimated you of in my last press conference will be fully functional by tomorrow,” he said.
“It will be headed by Dr. Faisal Shuaibu as the Incident Manager. He will later today lead a 6-man inter-agency team drawn from National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the US CDC, the WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Lagos to complete the setting up of the Centre. They will be joined by the other personnel from the Lagos State Government and the federal hospitals in the Lagos area as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.”
Mr. Chukwu said he had also appointed a “Director of Communication and Community Mobilization who will be based in Lagos- Prof. O. Onajole of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.”
“We are embarking on recruiting additional health personnel to strengthen the team who are currently managing the situation in Lagos. We are making arrangements to procure Isolation tents to quicken the pace of providing isolation wards in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“We are also setting up a special team to provide counselling and psychosocial support to patients, identified contacts and their families.
“I wish to once again reassure Nigerians that the Government is working hard to ensure the containment of the outbreak,” he said.