Nigeria joins Sierra Leone and Liberia to declare health emergency

President Goodluck Jonathan

  • Jonathan approves N1.9bn special intervention fund
  •  NNPC shuts clinic in Lagos
  •  Spread to US inevitable, says US Center for Disease Control

Olusegun Adeniyi in Boston; Adeola Akinremi and Busayo Adekoya in Lagos and Agha Ibiam in London

The underscore the seriousness of the threat posed to the Nigerians by the Ebola virus and also in conformity with the demands of the World Health Organisation (WHO), President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan friday declared the control and containment of the virus in Nigeria, a National Emergency.



WHO had earlier yesterday asked Jonathan and his counterparts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where there has been an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to declare national emergencies and personally address their nations to provide information on the situation as well as the steps being taken to address the outbreak.

Jonathan’s action came on a day the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu confirmed two new cases of the EVD in Lagos.

According to the statement from the Presidency yesterday, President Jonathan directed the Federal Ministry of Health to work in collaboration with the state ministries of health, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relevant agencies to ensure that all possible steps are taken to effectively contain the threat of the Ebola virus in line with international protocols and best practices.

The President also approved a Special Intervention Plan and the immediate release of N1. 9 billion for its implementation, to further strengthen on-going steps to contain the virus such as the establishment of additional isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, deployment of additional personnel, screening at borders, and the procurement of required items and facilities.

The President commended the vigilance of aviation and health authorities in Lagos who identified and isolated the index case in Nigeria, the late Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian who flew into the country.

He also applauded the good work of health authorities at both State and Federal levels who have traced persons who had contact with him, isolated other identified cases and embarked on massive public enlightenment.

President Jonathan called for even greater vigilance and co-operation at all levels to stop the Ebola virus from spreading further.

“As the effective implementation of the Federal Government’s Special Intervention Plan will require other stakeholders to take certain precautionary steps that are supportive of the government’s initiative,” said Jonathan.

Jonathan further called on members of the public to follow all directives by health authorities and report any suspected Ebola case to the nearest health facility for immediate medical attention.
He also enjoined the public to desist from spreading false information about Ebola which can lead to mass hysteria, panic and misdirection, including unverified suggestions about the prevention, treatment, cure and spread of the virus.

Jonathan urged that the movement of corpses from one community to the other, and from overseas into the country should be stopped forthwith. Every death should be reported to the relevant authorities, and special precautions should be taken in handling corpses.

“Religious and political groups, spiritual healing centres, families, associations and other bodies should, in the meantime, discourage gatherings and activities that may unwittingly promote close contact with infected persons or place others at risk.

“Public enlightenment agencies, including privately-owned media organs should support government’s efforts and disseminate correct information in all Nigerian languages, about preventive personal hygiene measures, the nature of the Ebola virus, modes of transmission and consequential steps to be taken in the event of infection,” said  a statement from the Presidency,” said the statement from the presidency.

Jonathan also appealed to State governments and private day care, nursery, primary and secondary schools owners to consider the option of extending the current school holiday until such a time when a national reassessment of the level of the Ebola threat is conducted.

The President further directed the National Emergency Management Agency and similar agencies at the state level to strengthen their public enlightenment campaigns and to use their networks to distribute hand sanitisers and other protective items nationwide.
He has also directed the aviation and health authorities to embark on immediate intensification of the screening of travellers at all the nation’s borders.

President Jonathan reassured that the Government of Nigeria will continue to take every step, deploy all resources, and mobilize every support and assistance to check the spread of Ebola in the country.

“Medical workers and other health professionals are expected to regard this declaration of a National Emergency as a patriotic call to duty and service,” said the President.

The request by WHO for an emergency to be declared on EVD was the highlight of a statement issued following the first meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) regarding the EVD outbreak in West Africa.

After discussion and deliberation on the information provided, the Committee advised that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes an extraordinary event and a public health risk to other states.

It said that the possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries.
Thus, WHO recommended a coordinated international response to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola.

According to WHO, “the current EVD outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. This outbreak now involves transmission in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. As of 4 August 2014, countries have reported 1 711 cases (1070 confirmed, 436 probable, 205 suspect), including 932 deaths. This is currently the largest EVD outbreak ever recorded.
“In response to the outbreak, a number of unaffected countries have made a range of travel related-advice or recommendations.”

Based on the presentations made by representatives of the affected countries, according to WHO, several challenges were identified in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
The challenges are: “Their health systems are fragile with significant deficits in human, financial and material resources, resulting in compromised ability to mount an adequate Ebola outbreak control response.
“Inexperience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks; misperceptions of the disease, including how the disease is transmitted, are common and continue to be a major challenge in some communities.”

Health Minister Confirms Two New Cases in Lagos…
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu has confirmed two new cases of the EVD in Lagos, which has brought to nine, the number of cases recorded in Nigeria so far.
‎The minister made this known yesterday at the Central Public Health Laboratory Services Centre in Lagos during a chat with journalists on the current situation of the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria.

‎According to him, aside the two fresh cases, there were also six suspected cases which had not been confirmed.
“The total number of cases, as at this morning stands at nine, of which eight are Nigerians and one, an American-Liberian.

1″Out of the nine confirmed cases; seven are alive and are receiving treatment in Lagos,” he said.
Prof. Chukwu also noted that the fatality rate so far in Nigeria was between 26 to 30 per cent, adding that all other ECOWAS countries with the virus stood at 65 per cent.
“I am saying this to enlighten people that having Ebola does not mean you have been condemned to death; survivors have been recorded,” Chukwu said.

He added that the government has approved financial resources based on the additional materials needed and be able to employ more workers

“We need all health-workers to be part of the team in combating this deadly virus, however through the help of the civil society there has been emergency recruitment taking place.
“All the people who are part of the team would enjoy life insurance scheme and additional packages of incentives.

“But please be informed that the government is not sparing any effort. We are constantly giving the president update of the current crisis and he is 100 per cent committed to curbing the spread of the virus,” he said.

He urged citizens to be wary of rumours and to ensure that they wash their hands and sanitise their environment regularly.

He said: “For those who don’t have money to afford sanitizers, the washing of hands with the use of Jik, diluted with a considerable amount of water is effective. All you need do is add a small amount of Jik in a plastic disposable bottle and add water to wash your hands regularly. But do not drink it as the acid concentration is very high,” he said.
Also speaking at the press briefing, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, condemned in totality rumours circulating that taking a salted hot water bath could protect one and served as an antidote to the virus.

“It is a wicked lie. I believe that Nigeria has laws in this regard. Such perpetrators must be fished out and prosecuted through the appropriate channels.

“Malicious rumours of a cure for Ebola should be stopped immediately, by spreading these rumours. Lives are at risk, Nigeria at the moment does not need rumours that would lead to panic, neither do we need to stigmatize those who are infected with the virus,” Maku said.
The two ministers maintained that best and most effective way to handle the situation was to maintain a regular hand washing culture, use hand sanitisers and reduce handshaking situations with other people.

Further, Maku advised infected people or individuals manifesting symptoms of Ebola virus to make themselves available at health facilities to increase their chances of survival and not to endanger the lives of others.
“We have had situations where one or two people refused to cooperate and endangered the lives of others,” he said.

NNPC shuts clinic in Lagos

Earlier yesterday, The management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced the indefinite shutdown of its clinic in the Muri Okunola area of Victoria Island, Lagos, following a suspected case of Ebola virus on admission at the clinic.

It was discovered that the patient visited the First Consultant Medical Centre during the period the first Ebola case was reported at that clinic.

The Corporation in statement explained that the pre-emptive step was taken after the case was duly reported to the Federal Ministry of Health as well as officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
“In the meantime, all contacts with this case are being traced and adequate precautionary measures instituted to contain the possible spread of the disease. The medical team has assured that the patient is in stable condition,” the Corporation stated.

Ebola’s spread to US is ‘inevitable’ …
Meanwhile, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has admitted that Ebola’s spread to the United States was inevitable “due to the nature of global airline travel, but any outbreak is not likely to be large.”

“More cases of Ebola moving across borders via air travel are expected, as West Africa faces the largest outbreak of the hemorrhagic virus in history.

“It is certainly possible that we could have ill people in the US who develop Ebola after having been exposed elsewhere,” ” said Tom Frieden, the head of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries – or from Lagos if it doesn’t get it under control – and are here with symptoms. But we are confident that there will not be a large Ebola outbreak in the US,” he added.

Last month, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian finance ministry employee who was also a naturalized American citizen, brought the virus to Lagos.

A Saudi Arabian man who had recently traveled to Sierra Leone and showed Ebola-like symptoms died Wednesday of a heart attack, but authorities in Riyadh did not reveal the results of Ebola tests that were done on the man.

Ebola first emerged in 1976, and has killed more than 1,500 people since then. Within weeks, the death toll from this outbreak alone is expected to surpass that number.

US Vows to See Africa Through…
A former US ambassador to Nigeria, Howard S. Jeter, has promised that the US will not leave Africa in limbo over the fight against Ebola virus until a cure for the deadly disease is found soonest.

Jeter, who was also the special envoy for Liberia and worked closely with Nigeria to end the civil war in Liberia under US former President, Bill Clinton, said the US had made adequate preparations to eradicate the disease and have dispatched a team of experts from the Centre for Disease Control to West Africa for support.

The former envoy made the statement during an award and dinner night organised by Sir Emeka Ofor Foundation at the 10th International Wheelchair and Amputees Sports (IWAS) at Stoke Mandeville, near London, UK.

credit : This Day Live

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