There was gloom at the secretariat of the Nigerian Medical Association,Lagos State chapter when the association’s Chairman, Dr. Tope Ojo, disclosed that the matron of the hospital where the Liberian-born American, Patrick Sawyer, was admitted for treatment was showing symptoms of Ebola virus.
The matron is one of the health workers at the Obalende, Lagos hospital who attended to Sawyer before he died of the disease (Ebola) on July 25..
A female medical doctor, who also participated in managing the Liberian- American was confirmed on Monday by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, to have contracted the deadly virus.
Apart from the female medical doctor and the matron, six other people suspected to have been infected with the virus are being quarantined at the IDH, Yaba.
Ojo, who added that 30 striking doctors had volunteered to attend to the medical needs of all those with Ebola-related case, stated that the female medical doctor was stable.
He said, “We know that the infected doctor is stable, however, the matron is showing symptoms too. But everybody, including the experts from the World Health Organisation, are doing all they can.
“Strike or no strike, we must respond to emergencies. Our doctors are at the Yaba hospital where isolated contacts are being monitored.”
Ojo however said the NMA was having a challenge getting volunteers to be part of the Ebola Case Management Committee because of the fear of contracting the virus.
The NMA chairman said, “There are seven committees working on the management of the disease at the centre in Lagos which our members are part of.
“ But the committee which we are having a challenge getting volunteers is that of case management. This committee comprises people that work directly with confirmed cases.
“Our doctors are worried about the danger it(Ebola virus) poses to their lives and they need to be reassured.
“We understand their fears and we are making moves to confirm the level of preparedness of the government for doctors.”
He stressed the need for the government to put adequate measures in place to assure health workers of their safety in stemming the virus.
“ Look at the protective measures that doctors in Liberia and Guinea wear. They are well protected, yet some of them still caught it,” Ojo said.
A doctor in one of the committees, Dr. Babajide Saheed, said they were working closely with WHO and other stakeholders to contain the spread of the virus.
Saheed said,” Not all doctors can attend to an Ebola patient. In fact, you must limit the number of health workers treating affected persons just to contain the risk.
“We will be escalating the situation if doctors rush to the Mainland hospital to attend to patients.”
A top official of the IDH said the Lagos State Government should designate one of its hospitals to accommodate more persons that might be isolated for monitoring.
“The mainland hospital may not be enough if we are to isolate more persons who had contact with Sawyer and those who have had direct contact with those people too,” he added.
He said that “ instead of using a ward in an hospital, it is better to just designate a whole hospital and evacuate patients from it.”
The Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Tuesday that Nigeria was considering applying for a dose of the experimental Ebola therapy to treat the Lagos female doctor.
“We will exploit the possibility of getting some (ZMapp Experimental Drug),” the Lagos State Health Commissioner, Jide Idris, said.
The San Diego, United States-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.’s experimental ZMapp drug had only been tested on infected animals before it was given to Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the two U S health workers who were infected with the virus in Liberia.
Airline’s manifest with FG, says LASG
Also on Tuesday, the Lagos State Government said Asky Airline had made the full manifest of passengers on its flight KP50 available to the Federal Government.
The flight had brought the 40-year-old Sawyer into Lagos via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The state government had last week said it could not give the precise number of passengers in the flight since the airline had not made the manifest available.
However, the Health Commissioner , Dr. Idris, said on Tuesday that the Federal Government had the list.
The commissioner, while updating journalists on development on the virus in the state, said, ”The airline has made the comprehensive list of the people on the flight available to the Federal Government through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.”
Idris added that the government was still compiling a list of all the primary and secondary contacts of the Lagos female doctor who contracted the Ebola virus from Sawyer.
The Commissioner, who also dispelled the rumour that the doctor had died, said the development was part of measures to curb the spread of the disease.
According to him, contact tracing is one of the measures needed to curb the spread of the virus.
He urged the public to be vigilant, especially with regards to relating with ill people.
Idris said, “Contact tracing is essential and very important to stop the spread of Ebola virus. In the case of the doctor, who was infected, we have contacted her family and have opened a comprehensive list of people that had contact with her.
“There is no panic as long as basic precautionary measures such as handwashing, adoption of appropriate waste management and enhanced personal/environmental hygiene are adhered to. This is a call for everyone to be vigilant, especially with regard to relating with people who are ill.”
The commissioner said it would be more difficult to control the spread of the virus if health workers were not around to help.
He said, “I appeal to the striking doctors to return to work and to other health workers to sheath their swords and embrace team work. We also count on the cooperation of the people of Lagos State.”
A senior official in his ministry, who pleaded anonymity because he was not competent to speak on the issue, confirmed that the manifest was in the custody of the ministry.
The source however said he could not confirm whether the Lagos state government had approached the ministry for a copy of the document.
“Only the minister, the coordinator of the Centre on Ebola and the Lagos state commissioner for health are competent to speak on the issue,”he said.
Flight manifest can’t be made public- FAAN
However, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has said that it cannot reveal to the public, the names of passengers onboard the flight that brought in the late Sawyer into Nigeria.
Reacting to request in some quarters that the names of those onboard the flight be made public, the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that it was the duty of the agency to protect the passengers.
He said, “If we mention your name as one of the passengers on that flight, tell me, how will people see you? This is not a plane crash that will require us to say that the deseased’s relatives need to know those on the flight.
“These people are not dead; they are alive and we have a duty to protect them while they are receiving treatment. You can’t release such a manifest to the public because this will cause stigmatisation. We have had reason to state that it is not possible.”
On what is currently happening to those onboard the flight, Ndubuoke said the FederaL Ministry of Health was in contact with them.
He said, “The Minister of Health has stated that there were 50 passengers onboard that flight apart from Sawyer. He made it clear that the ministry was getting in touch with all of them. The Health ministry had explained that it was in touch with all of them and was monitoring and investigating them. Even the driver that took Sawyer is being monitored.”
World Bank pledges N32bn to fight Ebola
Meanwhile, the World Bank Group on Tuesday pledged $200m (N32bn) to contain the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
The amount would also help communities affected by the epidemic cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and improve public health systems throughout West Africa.
The bank, in a statement it made available to journalists on Tuesday, did not list Nigeria as one of the beneficiaries of the fund.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the three countries that would use the money to check the spread of the virus.
Ebola death toll in West Africa, according to WHO, is now 887.
The statement quoted the World Bank President, Dr. Jim Kim, as saying the new financing commitment was in response to a call from WHO and the three African countries hardest-hit by the virus for immediate assistance.
Kim, who is also a medical doctor experienced in the treatment of infectious diseases, added that the bank would step up social safety net assistance for affected countries and families of those infected .
The bank will also help to build up public health systems in West Africa to strengthen the region’s disease control capacity more generally.
Kim said, “I am very worried that many more lives are at risk unless we can stop this Ebola epidemic in its tracks.
“I have been monitoring its deadly impact around the clock and am deeply saddened at how it has ravaged health workers, families and communities, disrupted normal life, and has led to a breakdown of already weak health systems in the three countries.
“The international community needs to act fast to contain and stop this Ebola outbreak. I believe this new World Bank emergency funding will provide critically needed support for the response to stop the further transmission of Ebola within Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which would prevent new infections in neighboring at-risk countries.”