Following the outbreak of Ebola disease in some parts of the continent, the Federal Government of Nigeria has stated that it has placed 69 persons who had first contact with the Liberian-born victim of Ebola Virus Disease, Patrick Sawyerr, on surveillance.
The government also disclosed that two persons have been quarantined.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who gave this disclosure added that the government had not shut its borders for now, “except when it becomes necessary.”
Chukwu said the 69 persons will be under surveillance for a period of three weeks from the date of contact in line with the specifications of the World Health Organisation.
The Minister at a joint press briefing with the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, on Thursday on the update of the virus, said Sawyerr with dual citizenship from both Liberia and United States, was confirmed dead barely four days after arrival in Nigeria.
He said, “We decided on the proper manner on how to dispose off his body because the corpse of any victim of Ebola disease is very toxic. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control decontaminated the body. We are tracking all those who had primary contact with him. As of today, 69 persons have been placed under surveillance while two persons have been quarantined.
“All those in the same aircraft to attend the meeting with him in Calabar are presently under surveillance. They will remain under this surveillance until a period of three weeks from the date of contact. We have a copy of the passengers’ manifest and we discovered that the sitting arrangement was free sitting. We are working with the airlines to track down those other passengers yet to be identified.
“As a Federal Government policy, we have not closed our borders, unless it becomes necessary. But the Aviation Minister is working with us in many aspects to make sure that the virus does not spread.”
“Our rapid response team is in Lagos. Nigeria has been commended by WHO. Secondary contacts are also important. We are working with the Cross River State government. We are not going to quarantine them but we have demanded for their contact details,” he stressed.
Chukwu also commended the hospital where the patient was managed saying, “We commend them for the great job they have done. They did everything to keep the man alive but unfortunately, he passed on. We have ordered the closure of the hospital. The doctors are under surveillance, we are using WHO certified personal protective equipment. Doctors are at high risk but Nigerians should not panic.”
According to him, government is pushing the frontiers of communication “and we believe that by this weekend subscribers of the mobile networks will begin to receive what government has been doing in that regard.”
He said, “We will soon convene a meeting with airline operators, Transport Ministry, Federal Road Safety Commission and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria to see how to manage people who travel on the West coast. Each state government has been mandated to expand its isolation centres beyond the ones they had before.
“Individuals can now buy sanitizers in offices, hotels and all public places. The idea is to reduce the sources of contamination. If it is not necessary to have a handshake, don’t. But where it is necessary do.”