The Federal Government yesterday disclosed that the dreaded Ebola killer virus has berthed in Enugu with about 21 people who were suspected to have been infected quarantined in the state.
This is coming as the Federal Government has approved the use of an experimental Ebola drug, Zmapp, for treatment of patients infected with the virus.
Briefing newsmen after the Federal Executive Council (FEC)’s meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said a nurse, who was under watch in Lagos having been suspected to have contacted the virus after contact with the late Liberian carrier, Patrick Sawyer, had travelled to Enugu state against medical instruction.
According to him, 198 persons are currently under watch by the Ministry of Health to contain further spread of the disease. Of this number, 177 are in Lagos while 21 are in Enugu following the nurse’s travel to the state.
He said: “All those who had primary contact 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 are being 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 travelled to Enugu,” he said.
According to the minister: “All those who she was in contact with, including her husband, are under quarantine. The medical team have been able to trace all those who made contact with her.” Maku said.
He urged members of the public to discountenance rumours and unverified reports over the Ebola epidemic warning that the government will prosecute anybody spreading rumours that could damage public health.
“Health workers are now in all our border units. All the entry points into this country and exit points, we have port health workers that are working in our airports and seaports.”
“We are calling on citizens specifically to cooperate. If health workers say you have had contact with A,B,C, don’t move to anywhere, respect that judgement. It is very important. In one or two cases where we have 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 are making, we implement them.” he said.
While maintaining that the preventive measures have been communicated to state governors, Maku said that they have been re-invited to be briefed by the federal government on further collaboration to stamp out the disease from Nigeria.
He said that the disease has no recorded cure as he debunked the report that there was Ebola case in Abuja.
On claims for treatment for the disease, he said: “The ministry of health set up a special committee specifically to take claims from Nigerians who believe they could help and so far we have had a lot of reports from Nigerians at home and abroad who come forward to say, look they have 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.”
During the FEC meeting, automatic hand sanitizer was brought in and the President, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola and some governors sanitized their hands. The machines are to be stationed in strategic places for private and public use.
FG approves ZMAPP
Meanwhile, Federal Government has approved the use of an experimental Ebola drug, Zmapp, for treatment of patients infected with the virus.
And the United States said yesterday it has not issued any travel restrictions on Nigeria and other Ebola prone countries of West Africa including Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The approval of the Zmapp was disclosed by the National Health Research Ethics Committee of Nigeria, which comprises research scientists, is a national body under the Federal Ministry of Health.
The endorsement is contained in a statement issued to journalists by Clement Adebamowo, Chairman of the committee yesterday in Abuja.
“It is ethical to use these treatments in the current situation without first submitting an application to National, State or Institutional Health Research Ethics Committee for prior review and approval.
“In addition, the Committee waives the current requirement that international shipment of any biological samples out of Nigeria should be preceded by the establishment of a Materials Transfer Agreement.
“This waiver is to promote rapid international response to this global emergency,” the statement said.
In the statement, the Nigerian National Code for Health Research Ethics emphasised that all innovative and non-validated treatments should be carefully and adequately documented.
According to the statement, the documentation can form the basis for clinical trials of the efficacy and side effects of the treatment according to established scientific principles.
In the statement, the ethics committee enjoined all agencies, development partners and research scientists to follow the guideline for the rapid resolution of the current emergency.
“The guideline will contribute to preparedness in case of future occurrences and contribution to scientific knowledge.
“It must be noted that all Phase O and Phase I Clinical Trials that may subsequently be designed for treatment of this infection can be approved only by the National Health Research Ethics Committee,” it said.
The decision by the committee is coming on the heels of Tuesday’s approval by the World Health Organisation, WHO, on the use of experimental drug, Zmapp, for treatment of Ebola patients.
And according to the U.S. Department of State, no Ebola-related travel restrictions have been issued by the agency for Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
A “factsheet” issued by the state department on its response to Ebola virus, said the agency only issued a travel warning on August 7, 2014 against non-essential travel to Liberia.
“Due to a lack of options for routine health care services, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members residing with embassy staff in Monrovia to begin August 8, 2014.’’
It said U.S. government employees in Liberia would remain on active duty at the embassy and additional staff members are being deployed to assist Liberia in addressing the Ebola outbreak.
The state department, however, said the U.S Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, issued alerts for the four West African countries affected by Ebola.
The countries, include Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. On Nigeria, CDC had issued “a level two alert”.
The level 2 alert notifies travellers of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and to inform them of measures they can take to minimise risks of contracting the disease.
According to the state department, U.S. embassies in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone will remain open and will continue business as usual.
“We remain deeply committed to supporting regional and international efforts to deliver health care as well as contain and control the transmission of the Ebola virus,” the U.S. Department of State said.
It added that the U.S. government was monitoring the situation closely and would update its response and travel recommendations as needed.
The State Department said the U.S. is working with the WHO and other international partners to help West African governments respond to and contain the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, the death toll from the outbreak has risen to over 1000, with more than 1,711 cases.