Ebola Warning: More Nigerians will develop disease before virus is stopped – Health Minister

Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu

The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, has warned that a “few more” Nigerians will develop the Ebola Virus Disease before the deadly infection is curtailed in Nigeria.

The minister said those at risk are those Nigerians who had contact with the victim in Rivers State.

Mr. Chukwu highlighted the need for great vigilance, particularly at ports of entry, to prevent further importation of the virus into Nigeria.

“It is expected that a few more contacts will develop the EVD especially in Rivers State before Nigeria will see the last case of EVD,” the minister said.

“While it is encouraging that so far, all confirmed cases of EVD in Nigeria have their roots in the index case, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, great vigilance is required particularly at our ports of entry to ensure we do not have cases of EVD from other sources other than Mr. Sawyer,” he had said Monday in Abuja.

Addressing the National Council on Health Meeting on Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in Nigeria, he noted that the situation would be effectively managed in Rivers State just as it was done in Lagos and Enugu States.

According to him, the Incident Management Committee has deployed a strong team to Rivers State to work with the state government to contain the spread of the virus.

The Nigerian government has been praised for its effort at curtailing the spread the Ebola virus although it remains a national health emergency and an international public health emergency according to the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Mr. Onyebuchi said as of August 31, the total number of cases of EVD in Nigeria stood at 16; cases treated at the isolation ward in Lagos State, 13; those discharged, seven; deaths among those treated in Lagos, five; and those receiving treatment in Lagos, two. Both patients are stable.

“The three confirmed cases not treated in Lagos comprise: a surviving primary contact of the index case (Patrick Sawyer), an ECOWAS Commission staff that became symptomatic, evaded surveillance in Lagos, travelled to Port Harcourt and infected his attending physician. Presently, he does not have viremia but other laboratory tests for antibodies confirm that he had suffered from EVD. He is under quarantine in Lagos at the moment undergoing further tests to ensure he is totally free from the virus.

“A private medical practitioner who was infected while treating the ECOWAS Commission staff died from EVD. It was his death that led to the investigation that revealed the introduction of EVD to Port Harcourt and the beginning of contact tracing of secondary and third degree contacts in Port Harcourt. Arrangements are being made to decontaminate the body in readiness for proper disposal of his remains. His death brings to six the total number of persons who have died from EVD in Nigeria. A female patient, who was on admission in the same hospital where the late Port Harcourt Doctor was also admitted, is presently under treatment in the isolation ward in Rivers State,” the minister said.

Two other contacts of the late Port Harcourt doctor –one of the doctors who managed him and a pharmacy technician working in the late doctor’s hospital –are symptomatic and have been admitted in the isolation ward in Rivers State. They have tested negative to the EVD but the laboratory tests will be repeated to reconfirm their status.

Consequently, by August 31, the number of contacts under surveillance in Lagos stood at 72 while in Port Harcourt, the total numbers of contacts under surveillance were 199. There is nobody under surveillance in Enugu presently and no case of EVD in Enugu State.

Also, 278 contacts in Lagos State had completed the 21 days surveillance and have been discharged. While in Enugu, all the six identified contacts have completed the 21 day observation period and have been discharged from surveillance. No contact in Port Harcourt has completed the 21 day observation period.

To curtail the spread of the virus, the Federal Government has since implemented the national health council’s resolution banning the repatriation of corpses into Nigeria as well as inter-state transportation of corpses. However, waivers are being granted by the Minister of Health in appropriate cases, non-Ebola Virus Disease or Lassa fever related deaths.

“Our technical teams have also concluded analysis of options for equipping our isolation wards as identified at the last meeting. At this meeting, we shall receive updates on the status of the isolation wards in the states, after which the FMoH (Federal Ministry of Health) will conclude arrangements and issue the contracts for the refurbishment and equipping of sites identified to serve as isolation wards. We are aware that available resources may not be sufficient. Therefore, we shall prioritise and also explore the possibility of development partners supporting this work in some states,” the minister added.


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