By Abiose Adelaja Adams
If the Nigerian government had put out a red alert on Ebola at the airports earlier, it would have prevented Patrick Sawyerr, the
Liberian who introduced the disease to the country, from entering, Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola, has said.
Fashola, who was speaking at an interactive session with religious and traditional leaders in Lagos, said Nigeria acted in the traditional way of, ‘it will never come here,’ and thus missed the opportunity of preventing Saywerr from coming into the country.
Sawyer along with two others who had contact with him have so far died. Apart from this, seven people are currently infected and receiving treatment while 177 people are under surveillance.
The situation, according to the minister of Health, has put immense strain on the country’s already fragile health system.
Late Sawyerr was suspected to be infected with the virus, having had primary contact with his sister who died of the disease in early July. It was gathered that he was under a mandatory 21-day Ebola surveillance, which is the standard for any person who had primary contact with an infected person when he travelled to Nigeria.
He defied a travel ban to make the trip on day 12 (July 20), of his being put under watch. He was to play a key role at the 8th ECOWAS retreat of Heads of Office meeting in Calabar, Cross River State.
In its defense, the minister of Health said the federal government acted proactively, but it is clear that if the federal Health and Aviation ministries had prepared for the prospects of an international spread, it would have put out a red alert beforehand and hence spotted a case like Sawyerr’s.
But there were no such structures to screen passenger on arrival at the country’s airports.
The icirnigeria.org had visited the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on July 23 to assess the country’s preparedness, but the port health officials were not seen on duty. As a matter of fact, on enquiry at the Port Health Office, a nurse in charge of administering yellow fever immunization told our reporter to go and obtain a vaccine for Ebola in Victoria Island, a sign that she is totally uninformed of what Ebola is.
“The first missed opportunity is that when this disease broke out in other parts of Africa we acted in the traditional way to say it will
never come here, but that was the time air travel monitor from those countries into this place should have been more effective ,” Fashola said.
Further expressing regrets, Lagos governor said that Sawyerr should have been attended to with a reliable health facility within the airport as it happens in other countries, rather than taking him into town and allowing the disease to spread.
“But they drove right through the airport into the heart of Lagos where people were now struggling to save his life. In that process, I don’t know this for a fact, but clearly they came in contact with body fluid and other contaminated discharges. Whether they were wearing gloves and any protective thing is what I don’t know. But those were the missed opportunities,” he stated.
But it has come to light that the slip is not only on the part of Nigerian government, but also with the Liberian airport authorities as well as the airline that flew him in.
According to images from a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) monitored at the James Spriggs Payne’s Airport, in Monrovia, Liberia, Sawyer was seen to be terribly ill before boarding his flight to Lagos.
The video footage also shows him lying flat on his stomach on the floor on the corridor of the airport, a sign of someone in excruciating pain, reported a Liberian Newspaper, New Dawn.
There was apparently no alert on Ebola anywhere at the airport in Liberia
Also, the Asky airline officials ought to have stopped him since he was obviously ill while boarding. They have been reprimanded by
Nigeria Civil Aviation Authorities for this act of carelessness.
Fashola, however, commended the management of First Consultant Hospital for acting professionally in spite of Sawyerr’s denial of the disease (even at his point of death) and appealed to the people yo take steps not to allow the virus to spread.