By Abiose Adelaja Adams
None of the 20 persons so far screened out of a total of 59 that had contact with the late Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola virus disease on Friday has tested positive, thus giving Nigeria a clean bill regarding the disease.
The Lagos State government said on Monday that it had reached a total of 59 persons who had physical contact with Sawyer and screened 20, none of who tested positive for Ebola.
The other 15 came in contact with Sawyer at the airport and include three ECOWAS staff (driver, liaison and protocol officer), the Nigerian Ambassador to Monrovia, Chigozie Obi-Nnadozie, two nursing staff and five airport passenger handlers.
“As at the time of this report 20 contacts had been physically screened for the virus. No one has tested positive to Ebola,” the commissioner said.
“We can categorically say that as of today, there is only one case of imported Ebola and one death. No Nigerian is infected and all contacts are being actively followed,” he declared.
Since the virus is renowned for its rapid spread through contacts with body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, tears and even sweat of infected persons, it is important to check those who had direct contact with him such as those who collected his blood and urine samples for testing as well and those who took care of him while he was sick.
Those who were with Sawyer on his flight from Monrovia to Lome and Lagos ought to have been contacted as well, but Idris said the manifest was not available at the time of the briefing.
Idris said there is no cause for panic as long as simple personal hygiene such as regular hand washing is observed.
Sawyer, a senior government official of the Liberian government arrived Lagos airport on Sunday July 20, on his way to Calabar, Cross River State, for the 8th ECOWAS retreat of Heads of Office meeting when he fell critically ill on his flight.
He was reported to have been very ill on arrival in Nigeria and was rushed to First Consultant Hospital in Obalende, Lagos.
As part of measures taken by the Lagos State health authorities to contain any spread of the disease, the late Sawyer’s body was decontaminated using 10 per cent sodium hypochlorite (according to WHO standard) and cremated, with the permission of the government of Liberia.
A cremation urn has been prepared for dispatch to family, Idris said.
The private hospital has also been temporarily closed for decontamination as another step to curtail spread.
While these high risk persons are being monitored for the possibility of Ebola virus, a rapid response team has been set up to handle cases in the event of an outbreak. This team comprise of officials from the National Centre for Disease Control of the federal ministry of Health, Lagos State ministry of Health, WHO, U.S. Center for disease and Control, United Nations Children and Education Fund, UNICEF, and others.
Ebola has killed at least 660 people with 1093 suspected and confirmed cases of infection in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since current epidemic considered to be deadly and out-of-control.
Once infected, it takes between 2-21 days for the virus to incubate and symptoms usually start off with fever, high temperature, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat then it graduates to vomiting and diarrhoea , rash, impaired kidney and liver function and lastly, bleeding from orifices of the body such as eyes, nose and mouth.
The disease has no cure and no vaccine yet. It is up to the immune system of the infected person to fight it off.
Nigerians have been advised not to panic or stigmatize but report anyone with such persistent symptoms to the designated call centres: 08023169485, 08055329229, 08033086660, 08033065303 and 08055281442.