The Federal Government has confirmed further spread of ebola virus in the country, saying 21 persons are being currently quarantined in enugu State.
Information Minister Labaran Maku disclosed this to State House journalists today after the Federal Executive Council (fec) meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.
He noted that the four-hour fec meeting was devoted to discussions on the progress being made in combating ebola in the country.
He said the government had so far traced 198 persons that had primary and secondary contacts with Patrick Sawyer who brought the virus to Nigeria from Liberia.
According to the minister, 177 of those persons are in Lagos; while 21 are in enugu.
He said the 21 persons being quarantined in enugu were those who had contacts with a female nurse that had primary contact with Sawyer in Lagos.
The minister explained that the nurse disobeyed medical instructions and traveled to enugu.
He said: “All those who had primary contact (with Sawyer) have been quarantined. Secondary contacts have also been traced.
“So far, the number of people that have been traced is 198. Out of this number, 177 are in Lagos and have been traced. Some are in quarantine, some are being monitored by health specialists.
“21 persons in enugu are also being watched. This is because one of the nurses that was involved with the treatment of the index case unfortunately, disobeyed medical instructions and somehow traveled to enugu. All those who she was in contact with, including her husband, are under quarantine. The medical teams have been able to trace all those who made contact with her”.
Maku said health workers had been deployed to all the border units in the country, adding that “All the entry points into this country and exit points, we’ve port health workers that are working in our airports and seaports. We’re calling on citizens specifically to cooperate. If health workers say you’ve had contact with A,B,C, don’t move to anywhere, respect that judgment. It’s very important. In one or two cases where we’ve had disobedience, we lost one of them and this one now moved with it to another place (enugu).
“So, we are urging Nigerians, please to help us in making sure that all these messages and appeals we’re making on you, we implement them”.
Maku said in terms of possible treatment, the Ministry of Health had set up a special committee specifically to take claims from Nigerians who believed they could help.
“And so far, we’ve had a lot of reports from Nigerians at home and abroad who came forward to say they’ve possibility of developing therapies that could help in fighting the virus. There is no cure so far anywhere in the world. Even the trial drug in the US is still a trial drug, it has not been established.
“One of the doctors and research experts that came forward was Dr Simon Agwale who has been one of the frontline global researchers on developing vaccines for HIV and other viral diseases. He also came forward and said he could help, both in terms of working out to develop a vaccine which he said he has started work on between himself and his fellow experts in the US and he said this is ongoing. The minister of health has given support and directed him to the committee. He also discussed the possibility of certain therapies they can now use which could be applied. And again, that’s being discussed. And once it’s approved, it could be used”.
The minister also disclosed that the United States was yet to respond to the Nigeria’s request for trial drugs for the treatment of ebola victims.
“We are still hoping that the US will grant our request for the trial drugs. So, our request is still on course”, he said.
According to him, Nigeria has responded to the outbreak of ebola with the best international standard by declaring emergency and putting measures in place to prevent further spread.
He said only two of the 10 Nigerians who had so far tested positive to the virus had died; while others were still undergoing treatment.
“We’ve developed a communication plan under implementation using traditional media—radio, newspapers and TV–to educate citizens on Eboa. Part of the measures is advocacy visits to groups, road transport workers and owners in order to sensitise Nigerians especially on the need for strict hygienic measures. We’re pleased with cooperation from religious leaders. People no longer place holy communion on people’s mouths. We’ve introduced laboratory screens at worship centres. We’re urging continued vigilance at worship places.
“We’re also pleading with people who’ve contact with any known case to quickly report to health centres to save other people’s lives. The reason for reporting doesn’t mean you’ve contracted the disease, it’s just to keep you under observation. Most people have survived because they reported early enough and got quick intervention.
Efforts have been made to provide personal protective equipment for health workers”, he said.
The minister dismissed the claim that cases of ebola had been reported in Abuja, saying “we pray it doesn’t happen”.
He cautioned the media against unverified reports which, he said could fuel anxiety and damage the country’s image.
Maku also warned those spreading rumours that could endanger public health, saying they could be traced and prosecuted.