Late Patrick Sawyer, the Liberia-American who died of Ebola disease in Lagos on July 25, was fully aware that he had been infected with the deadly virus but defied instructions by his country’s health authorities not to leave his country.
Sawyer, a health worker in Liberia travelled to Nigeria to attend a medical conference when he took ill and died from the Ebola disease a few days later.
So far, a nurse, one of those who cared for the Liberian in a Lagos hospital has died from Ebola while one of the doctors who treated him has also been confirmed to have the disease. At least seven other persons have developed feverish conditions and have been quarantined and placed under observation
Also, it has been revealed that some of the estimated 70 persons who had contact with Sawyer and who are being tracked and monitored include officials the nation’s security forces, including the State Security Service, SSS, and the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS.
The minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, made some of these disclosures on Wednesday while briefing federal lawmakers at an emergency meeting convened by the House of Representatives committee on Health over the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
Chukwu described the Ebola outbreak as a national emergency, while also confirming the dead of one of the nurses that treated Sawyer.
The minister told surprised members of the House that the Liberian knew that he had been infected with the dreaded disease and had also been warned not to travel out of Liberia, but he defied the order to make the trip to Nigeria, putting scores of people at risk.
The project director of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Abdulsalami Nasidi, who was also at the briefing, told the lawmakers that 70 Nigerians were currently under surveillance for the diseases.
He said these include 39 medical personnel and 22 airport contacts, including the SSS and NIS officials.
The director of port health services in the health ministry, Sani Gwarzo, said that restrictions have been placed on airlifting of corpses into Nigeria.
He assured that efforts had been taken at the nation’s airports to prevent infected passengers from coming into the country. He said that the health ministry had deployed about 66 of its staff to the airports to screen travellers coming into the country.
The chairman of the House committee on Health, Ndudi Elumelu, said that the emergency meeting was called to allow relevant health authorities brief the House on the Ebola outbreak and what was being done to contain it and prevent further spread.