The Rivers state Government has disclosed that the man who evaded surveillance in Lagos and travelled to Port Harcourt after coming in contact with Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian American, who brought the virus to Nigeria, is a personnel of the sub-regional group, the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS].
In a broadcast to the people of Rivers state Thursday, the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, said the ECOWAS diplomat, who he did not name, travelled to Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, after Mr. Sawyer infected him in Lagos. He in turn infected a doctor, Ikechukwu Enemuo, who treated him.
Mr. Amaechi said the ECOWAS official travelled to Port Harcourt the day Mr. Sawyer died in Lagos.
Mr. Amaechi said, “Our investigations revealed that a staff of the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS], on the day that the late Sawyer died of Ebola, made a trip to Port Harcourt where he went into a hotel and met with Dr. Ike (Enemuo).
“About a week after his departure, Dr. Ike (Enemuo) took ill and was rushed to hospital with symptoms of fever and diarrhea. In the course of treatment, the doctor became suspicious and took blood samples for investigation.
“In three days, Dr. Ike (Enemuo) died. Dr. Ike’s widow, who is also medical person, and who also took care of him, has taken ill and has been quarantined. Diplomat who was seen by late Dr. Enemuo is alive and well, there is no need to panic.”
Mr. Amaechi wouldn’t reveal the identity or nationality of the diplomat just like the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, who while confirming the new Ebola cases in Port Harcourt, failed to disclose the identity of the man who took the disease there.
It remains unclear whether Dr. Enemuo knew the diplomat was Ebola-positive before he agreed to treat him.
Earlier reports said he “secretly” treated the ECOWAS official, but details of his knowledge of the official’s exact medical condition are unclear.
Governor Amaechi did not provide those details in his speech Thursday. The identity of the diplomat also remains unknown with neither the Nigerian government nor ECOWAS agreeing to release the name.
It is not also clear whether the ECOWAS official later travelled to Calabar, Cross River State, for a regional conference that initially brought Mr. Sawyer to Nigeria.
A spokesperson for ECOWAS, Sunny Ugo, could not be reached Thursday to comment for this story. His two telephone lines would not connect. The regional grouping has already lost one of its personnel to the virus in Nigeria.
An associate of the late Mr. Enemuo has however given an insight into how the late Mr. Enemuo treated the ECOWAS diplomat, contracted Ebola and died.
The associate, who preferred not to be named, provided what appear the clearest details yet of what transpired in Port Harcourt after the late doctor treated the ECOWAS staff.
The source said Mr. Enemuo, who practiced at Sam Steel Clinic at Rumuokoro, along East-West Road, Port Harcourt, made arrangement with the diplomat and “secretely” treated him at a hotel in the city.
He said shortly after he left Port Harcourt, Dr. Enemuo became ill for three days and was first rushed to Prime Hospital where he was rejected, before being taken to Good Heart Hospital on Evo road, GRA, Port Harcourt.
The source said Dr. Enemuo vomited blood repeatedly and passed blood-stained stool before he died. Mr. Enemuo and the wife had a three-month old baby, he said.
The associate, also a doctor based in Port Harcourt, said the government must act speedily to curb the spread of the virus, and spoke of how the late doctor carried out at least one surgical operation a day before becoming very ill with symptoms later proven to be of Ebola.
He said the medic possibly attended to several patients after he was infected, warning of a potentially higher number of those at risk of the deadly virus.
On Thursday, Governor Amaechi said 100 contacts to the doctor had been traced and placed under watch, while those with symptoms of Ebola had been isolated.
“And as of today, about 100 contacts from the hotel, patients of Dr. Enemuo and patients from the hospital where the late Enemuo was treated, have been identified and restricted. Different locations are being decontaminated,” Governor Amaechi said in his state-wide broadcast Thursday.
Mr. Enemuo’s wife has also been quarantined after showing symptoms of the disease, he said.
The confirmation of an Ebola case in Port Harcourt — the first outside Lagos — has shocked Nigerians, and has heightened fears of the dreaded virus just days after the federal government raised hopes that Nigeria was on the verge of eradicating the highly contagious virus.
With the with the new case, Nigeria has now recorded 15 cases of Ebola, of which six people have died and seven others already discharged from the Ebola isolation center in Lagos, Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said.