The Federal Government has declared that the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease
in the country has been contained with the discharge of two more patients diagnosed with the virus from an isolation ward in Lagos State yesterday.
It therefore brings to seven the number of patients that have been treated and declared free from the virus in the country.
This is even as the number of deaths from the scourge in the country remains five, including the index case, Patrick Sawyer, who imported the virus into the nation, last month.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu said: “Today is the 38th day since the Ebola virus disease was imported into Nigeria by a Liberian- American. As of today, 26th August, 2014, Nigeria has had 13 cases of EVD including the index case.
“Of these 13, five including the index case unfortunately did not survive the disease and are now late. However, seven of the infected persons were successfully managed at the isolation ward in Lagos and have been discharged home.
“Two of the treated patients, a male doctor and a female nurse were discharged yesterday, both of them primary contacts of Mr. Patrick Sawyer, having satisfied the criteria for discharge.
“As I speak to you, Nigeria has only one confirmed case of EVD, a secondary contact of Mr. Patrick Sawyer. This is an indication that, thus far, Nigeria has contained the disease outbreak.
“I wish to reassure Nigerians and indeed the global community that the government shall remain vigilant and will not relent as government continues to work with her partners to ensure that the disease is kept out of the country,” the minister added. The minister added that 129 persons had been freed from surveillance, having passed through the 21 days incubation period for the virus without testing positive.
However, 128 persons are still beig watched by government for any signs of infection by the virus, the minister stated. “All those who are under our surveillance, only one person is symptomatic; we are investigating, the result is not out. All others are not symptomatic,” the minister stressed.
Chukwu also denied reports that the sister of Dr Stella Adadevoh, who died of Ebola virus after being infected by Sawyer had been tested positive to the virus. “She is negative,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, the minister said that the N1.9bn earlier approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, at the time he declared emergency following the outbreak is for the improvement of the nation’s general health systems. It was widely believed that the funds was to be used for containing the virus,
“We did say that the N1.9bn that the President approved was for the Federal Ministry of Health; those ones that the Federal Ministry of Health should champion. That fund was provided based on the budget that the Federal Ministry of Health submitted to Mr. President. It was not termed an Ebola fund.
“I repeat, because now I hear that in some places, even village heads are asking for their own share. Nigeria is always thinking of sharing money. It is money for the Federal Ministry of Health to use in working. They are going to use it to procure more vehicles; which have already been ordered.
“They are going to use it to procure more personal protective equipment, which have already been ordered. They are going to use it to provide isolation tents, which again have been ordered, including drugs which will be used to support the patients. It is a budget for the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies as submitted by the Federal Ministry of Health to Mr. President.
“What I am saying is that there will still be other funds that will still be released in various ways depending on what any of the cognate agencies is requesting from Mr. President that must be done.
“Now, in the case of Lagos State, after the President met with all governors, together with their commissioners for health, it was clear, even from the statement made by the Governor of Lagos State, that Lagos State is also under pressure because many of the workers we are using are from Lagos State. We can’t shortly go and start recruiting people. We work with the state. It is just that in every epidemic, the Federal Government with the Minister of Health in the front takes control of epidemic. It is not a state government matter.
“But, we use state personnel as well and local government personnel; we used everybody, our partners are part of it. But, the leader of the team is the Minister of Health.
“So, Lagos State Government has been spending money. They pay salary to staff; they’ve been recruiting more staff. They give these staff incentives. They provided the isolation ward. But, we led and decided who should work there. The Minister of Health created the teams that are working,” Chukwu explained. Earlier, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, had donated N1m to help contain the virus.
He said: “This is the first time in the history of our country that our elected and appointed people and leaders have risen to the great challenge we are facing. I want to commend the health workers for the risk they have taken, their commitment and their dedication to their duties in assisting the entire populace to completely be ready for this challenge.
“There is no way that the Federal Government alone can be left to face the burden of the Ebola challenge. It is my well-considered opinion that citizens of this country, corporate organisations should try and make their own contributions to help in the awareness for people to understand what the challenges we are facing with this Ebola scourge,” he added.
Meanwhile, the scientist, who discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 in the DR Congo, Peter Piot said the World Health Organisation, WHO, reacted too slowly to curb the epidemic in West Africa.
Piot, who made the remark in Geneva yesterday, held that Ebola outbreak was gaining momentum and WHO only woke up to it in July.
They took over the leadership, but it came too late’’, he said.
Piot warned that Ebola outbreak could worsen in the coming weeks and turn into a “perfect storm” due to the crumbling health systems in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In a related development, WHO yesterday warned that the high proportion of health workers infected with the Ebola virus in West Africa was “unprecedented” and was hampering efforts to curb the epidemic.
It said more than 240 health workers had contracted the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone while treating patients, and more than 120 have died.
It said the causes of the high infection rate among medical personnel included lack of protective equipment – even gloves and face masks – and its improper use.
Also on Tuesday, the British Department of Health said it had requested the experimental drug ZMapp from the WHO to treat a 29-year old British health worker, who was infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone and was evacuated to London.
The department said the request was being made because ZMapp was not an approved drug, and its supply was extremely limited.
The WHO said Friday that the death toll across West Africa had risen to 1,427 with a total of 2,615 suspected or confirmed cases in the region.