The Nigerian Medical Association on Monday faulted the Federal Government’s directive to schools to resume on September 22 as against October 12.
It said through its National Secretary-General, Dr. Olawunmi Alayaki, that all schools ought to remain shut till all those under surveillance for the Ebola Virus Disease in the country had been certified free.
“We are not happy with this decision on the resumption of schools. Schools should be shut till the last suspected case or patient is certified free of the virus,” the NMA said.
Before the association made this known the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, had disclosed that an 18 month-old baby had been quarantined in the state for showing symptoms of the deadly virus.
The NMA suggested that the resumption of schools could be shifted till December or early part of next year because if Ebola should spread to any school, it would “assume another dimension.”
It said, “ We can shift the resumption date till next year or in the next three months if that is the time it will take. Government should have enough time to follow the standard procedure for containing the virus.
“Parents have no reason to be in a hurry because if Ebola should enter any school, it will assume another dimension. Children cannot survive isolation like adults.
“Nigeria is peculiar because of her large population and we should be pragmatic and proactive. It will not augur well for the country if we have another outbreak due to carelessness.”
Also, the Lagos State chapter of NMA said that the Federal Government should have postponed the resumption date till the completion of surveillance and monitoring of contacts in the affected states.
It said through its chairman, Dr. Tope Ojo, that many of the public and private schools in the country lacked basic hygiene and sanitary facilities that could help prevent the spread of the EVD by pupils.
It stated, “It would not have cost the Federal Government anything to have waited till those under surveillance have completed the 21 days in all the states where they are being monitored.
“The government knows that it takes a longer time for children to get used to the idea of hygiene and sanitation. They are even more vulnerable because they would play with each other whether they are sick or not.
“How many children know that they should use hand sanitisers or avoid contact with anybody that has a fever?
“Waiting till October when at least the situations in Rivers and Lagos states would have been conclusively managed is another safety measure the government should have taken . These kids are not studying to get a degree, so we are sure it would not have affected schools’ curricula.”
Also the immediate past president of the NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, expressed concern about the September 22 resumption date and wondered about the safety parameters government used in fixing the date.
Enabulele said that the grouse of many parents with the resumption date stemmed from the fact that they were not convinced that schools had met the safety standards for the prevention of Ebola.
He added that if the government was bent on schools adhering to the date, it should begin now to check the sanitary facilities put in place by their proprietors to ensure the safety of pupils.
Enabulele said, “We must know the parameters that the Federal Government used to arrive at the resumption date in the first place. Has the Federal Government carried out a safety assessment in registered schools in the country? There should be a checklist and only those who meet it should be certified fit to reopen.
“The minimum standard is that all schools should have a dispensary, a sick bay where sick children, especially those with fever, are properly managed and tested.”
Saying that he knew that such facilities were not available in many schools, he asked: So, why the rush for their resumption?”
Also, a consultant paediatrician with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi- Araba, Prof. Edamisan Temiye, called on the three tiers of government to ensure that schools had access to water on their premises.
The former Lagos NMA chairman, also warned parents not to force sick children to go to school as this could expose them to infections.
Temiye said, “Governments must ensure that clean water flows on schools’ premises so that children can wash their hands regularly. Water is important for sanitation and it is the duty of government to ensure that citizens have access to it.
“Also, parents should take sick children to hospital. Don’t give them drugs and force them to go to school. Ebola can only be caught from a sick person. School authorities should watch out for and isolate sick children from others.
“Again school owners should give hand sanitisers to their pupils before allowing them into their premises. They should also have thermal thermometers to check the temperatures of their pupils before allowing them into their school premises.”
The Minister of Health had before the doctors spoke with one of our correspondents in Lagos, said that there was nothing to fear over the directive to schools to resume on September 22.
Chukwu, who gave an update of EVD in Nigeria, said, “We have contained the situation. Ebola is no longer in the streets anywhere in Nigeria.
“We are working with the Federal Ministry of Education and we made it clear that in institutions having students returning from outside Nigeria, they should let us know.
“We will work with them and we have questionnaires which we are already using on airlines and ships coming into Nigeria as well as other means of transport. They will fill questionnaires. We will ask questions and conduct tests to see that they don’t have fever.”
The minister also revealed that a fiancé of one of Patrick Sawyer’s contacts who was confirmed positive for EVD had since recovered.
He added, “So far, all the cases that have been confirmed in Nigeria are traceable to the index case (Sawyer). As of this (Monday) morning, the total number of confirmed cases of EVD in Nigeria is 19. Fifteen were in Lagos and four in Port Harcourt.
“The 19th case is the fiancé of one of the primary contacts of Mr. Sawyer who died of the disease. The test results were equivocal but further tests established the disease. He had only mild symptoms and he has since recovered from the illness. He was quarantined but because of the equivocal test result he was not placed on active treatment.
“The total number of deaths from EVD in Nigeria stands at seven . Five of them died in Lagos, one in a private hospital, the index case, and the other four in the isolation ward in Lagos State.
“Two of the seven died in Port Harcourt, the medical doctor who died in a private hospital and the contact, a patient in the hospital at the time the doctor was also on admission, who died in the isolation ward in Rivers State.”
According to him, the total number of patients who have been successfully managed and discharged stands at nine.
He added that the latest was the sister (Chinyere) of the late Port Harcourt doctor who was discharged from the isolation ward in Rivers State on Sunday.
“It should be noted that the nine patients successfully managed and discharged are among the total number of 11 survivors of EVD in Nigeria. At the moment, only one person, the wife of the late Port Harcourt doctor, is on treatment at the isolation ward in Lagos.
“She no longer has any symptoms and is undergoing a series of tests preparatory to her discharge from the isolation ward this week.
“Regarding contacts currently under surveillance, Lagos has 27 contacts surveillance as of now. A total of 339 contacts who were previously on surveillance have been discharged having completed the 21 days of observation. Port Harcourt has 477 contacts under surveillance. It is a mixed group consisting of tertiary and quaternary contacts of Sawyer. Five contacts have already been discharged from surveillance in Port Harcourt having completed the 21 days of observation.”
In Port Harcourt, the Health commissioner, Parker, also confirmed that Chinyere had been discharged. But as journalists expressed joy over Chinyere’s recovery, he announced that an 18 month-old baby, who showed symptoms of Ebola had been quarantined for observation.
The commissioner however did not provide further information as he returned to Chinyere’s recovery and discharge.
“I am cheerful today because we have successfully treated an Ebola patient. She (Chinyere) has been effectively treated, cleared and discharged from our isolation treatment centre. She deserves to be celebrated as a success story,” he said.
Parker, who explained that the state government had reached about 479 contacts, said, “I can assure you that the disease has been covered. People should not cause panic. The number of deaths from Ebola is lower than deaths from road accidents.”