A highly placed official of the Rivers state Government has confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that a suspected case of the Ebola Virus Disease has been detected in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the development with journalists, simply said, “Yes, there was a case of Ebola death. We are tracking everybody.”
Seventy people suspected to have had contact with the case have been tracked and quarantined, the official said.
The official spoke to this newspaper following reports that a doctor in the Rivers state capital had died from what appeared to be Ebola.
The Rivers state Commissioner for Information, Ibim Semenitari, could not be reached for comments last night as she was said to be outside the country.
The unnamed doctor, according to news website, Sahara Reporters, secretly treated a diplomat who had contact with Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American, who brought the virus to Nigeria.
The doctor reportedly died on Friday, while his wife had also taken ill and now quarantined in Port Harcourt.
The diplomat treated by the doctor is still alive, the report said.
The diplomat is believed to be among those who met Mr. Sawyer on his arrival in Lagos. He then flew to Port Harcourt where he took ill.
He was treated at an unnamed hotel in the Rivers state capital, an official said.
The doctor’s hospital, Good Heart Hospital, as well as the hotel where he treated the diplomat, have been shut down, reports say.
This development, if confirmed will be a big blow to Nigeria’s effort to contain the deadly virus.
With only one case being treated in Lagos, the Minister of Health had declared Tuesday that Nigeria had succeeded in checkmating the spread of the virus in the country.
“Ebola has been curtailed,” an excited Mr. Chukwu said with glee on Tuesday. “All 129 people under surveillance have completed the 21-day observation period and only a person is symptomatic and is being observed.”
However on Wednesday, the minister became a bit measured in his celebration, downgrading his earlier message of euphoria to that of cautious optimism.
He hinted that it was still early for Nigeria to claim to be free of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Mr. Chukwu said Nigeria was still at risk of the Ebola virus despite having only one confirmed case.
Saying the country had only succeeded in taming the virus, the minister said between one to three new cases might surface from people currently under surveillance.
“I don’t want us to move from panic to euphoria which may be a problem,” the minister said. “Nigeria is doing well on containment, all the disease in Nigeria were all traced to Patrick Sawyer. We have not eliminated the disease because we still have a case we are managing which may have had a third party contact. As long as there is a case of ebola disease, Nigeria is still at risk. So we have done well on containment but the problem is not over.”
He said Nigeria remained at risk of Ebola and that that would only change “when the very last case of Ebola virus disease under this current epidemic has gone”.
“As we speak, there is a case we are still managing. And even that case we are still managing must also have had her own third degree contacts, many of whom are part of this number of people that are under surveillance. “So until we give a clean bill of health to every contact, we cannot even say we have eliminated the disease,” Mr. Chukwu said.
It is not clear whether the minister had a hint of the development in Rivers when he spoke on Wednesday.