The Nigerian government on Thursday said it had placed 69 people on surveillance and quarantined two others since the first case of Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, was identified in the country.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu at a briefing in Abuja said that the 69 people were on surveillance due to their direct or indirect contact with the Liberian- American, Patrick Sawyer, who died from the deadly disease.
Mr. Sawyer died last Thursday in a Lagos hospital after he came into Nigeria from Liberia via Asky Airline. His sister was also said to have died of the disease in Liberia.
The increase in the number of people under surveillance rises after government’s statement in the past week that 59 people were under watch.
Mr. Chukwu said the other two people will remain quarantined for at least three weeks, the long period he said will enable any manifestation of the disease infection.
The virus manifests between two to 21 days which is its incubation period.
The minister said health officials are “still searching” for others who might have had contact with the late Mr. Sawyer; including colleagues and those who flew with him.
He listed those on surveillance to include Mr. Sawyer’s colleagues who travelled to Calabar, Cross River State and hospital staff who treated him before his death.
He also said the Lagos hospital where the deceased died, First Consultant in Obalende, is being decontaminated.
“State governments are identifying isolation sites beyond the capacity they had before,” Mr. Chukwu said.
The minister, however, said that the Nigerian borders still remain open with travellers being screened. He also advised the general public to remain conscious of their personal hygiene by regular washing of hands.
He also recommended the use of sanitizers in public buildings to help reduce the sources of contamination.
Since the death of Mr. Sawyer, a presidential committee on communication to manage public knowledge about Ebola, is said to have met three times.
A national call centre which was to be launched in two weeks might become operational earlier than planned to handle toll-free calls for questions and information about the disease.
Also speaking, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, told journalist to exhibit professionalism in their reportage. He also raised concerns on the possible misinformation through the use of social media to create panic among citizens.
“The concern is not that Ebola is out there, but we want to prevent it. There is no rule about Ebola that is different from preventing other diseases—just hygiene.
“This war on Ebola will be won more by media reports than by what doctors do, only one case [Sawyer] has been reported but we are taking every measure to ensure it remains only at that one,” Mr. Maku said.
He said media organisations will be expected to publish and broadcast public-health jingles expected from the Ebola communication committee and the health ministry while private owned media organisations are expected to see their role as being in national interest.
The briefings are expected to become regular, alongside a communication centre, as Nigeria battles to keep Ebola under control.
The epicentre of the virus is Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where more than 1200 people have been infected so far with the deadly virus with over 700 deaths. There is no drug or vaccine to treat the virus that has an over 60 per cent fatality
Ebola is said to be transmitted from fruit bats and apes to humans who hunt them for food and is further spread to other humans when they come in contact with the blood or body fluid of an infected person.
Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, backache, and joint pains. Later symptoms include bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, bleeding from the mouth and rectum, eye swelling, swelling of the genitals and bloody rashes all over the body.