Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu

While confirming the case of the South African in Lagos yesterday, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said the disease had been adequately contained and therefore there should be no panic over schools’ September 22, 2014 resumption date.

Chukwu was speaking in Lagos on Friday at the requiem mass organised in honour of Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, who died after treating the Liberian-American who brought the virus to Nigeria, Patrick Sawyer.

He said, “Our children can go back to school even today. But if they cannot go back to school today, it is certainly not because of the Ebola virus because the disease has been effectively contained in Nigeria already.

“However, we all still have a big role to play at ensuring this danger is flushed out of our land. Adadevoh made a priceless sacrifice; her death must not be in vain. The government has taken due note of her sacrifice and at the appropriate time this country would honour her,” he said.

According to WHO, Ebola has killed more than 2,400 people so far across the affected West African countries with that figure likely to rise to 20, 000 over the next six months if adequate and strategic measures are not adopted to fight the spread of the disease.

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Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau

Private school owners in Lagos State and the Federal Government may clash over the latter’s order directing all primary and secondary schools in the country to resume on October 13, 2014, instead of the anticipated September 15.

The school owners, under the umbrella of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, believe that the directive is unnecessary and should not be considered as part of the measures to prevent the spread of Ebola virus in the country.

They expressed their feeling at a sensitisation programme on Ebola held on Thursday at Victory Grammar School, Ikeja, Lagos.

The Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, had announced the resumption date after a meeting with the 36 state commissioners of education on Tuesday in Abuja

But speaking at the sensitisation programme, the Lagos State President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Mr. Yomi Otubela, said, “We have sent our appeal to the Federal Government through the Lagos State Special Adviser on Public Health informing it that if religious organisations and other places are left open, these children could as well contract the virus there.

“If markets that have more crowd than what we have in schools are not asked to close down, then we wonder why the government will not allow us put preventive measures in place and allow these children return to school. School is supposed to be a place of knowledge and we are to educate and expose them to the knowledge on what they need to know to prevent the spread of the virus, not keeping them out of schools and keeping them ignorant of what is happening.”

But the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Government on Public Health, Dr. Yewande Adeshina, disagreed with the school owners, asking them to abide by the Federal Government’s directive.

She also asked them not to place priority on their financial wellbeing over the physical wellbeing of the school children.

The founder of Supreme Educational Foundation Schools, Mrs. Adenike Adamolekun, also said the directive by the Federal Government was senseless.

She said, “Just as we are praising the Federal Government for being proactive in containing the Ebola virus, we are also condemning them on this one. It does not make sense at all. Even if they had any doubt, what they needed to have done was to have put together some precautions and extend it to all schools, ensuring that all schools abide by them.

“Shutting the schools for a whole month, considering the fact they will be shut down next year again because of elections, is a bad idea. Moreover, parents do not know what to do with those kids. I think this is an unnecessary approach to the issue.”

A school proprietress, Dr. Maggie Ibru, stated that what the Federal Government could have done was to provide hand sanitisers in all private and public schools in the country.

She said it was in the capability of the Federal Government to provide hand sanitisers and increase the level of sanitisation in all schools in the country.

She said, “No, the Federal Government got it wrong on this one because this will not stop the students from participating in international examinations. What the government should have done is to supply all schools with hand sanitisers, both private and public, because who attend the private schools too are Nigerians.

“They should allow the children to go back to school. What to do is simple: the Federal Government could have increased the sensitisation level on Ebola prevention in our schools and if possible, give a directive to all schools not to allow guests enter their premises, or rather mandate every child and visitor be subjected to a test before entering the school premises. These are the measures that the Federal Government should have taken.”

Meanwhile, inadequate test and treatment centres for the Ebola Virus Disease has been identified as one of the greatest challenges threatening the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Though four test centres have been set up in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital; Centre for Disease Control in Asokoro, Abuja; University College Hospital, Ibadan; and the Redeemers University Laboratory, Kilometer 35 Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, doctors, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, flayed the government over what they called inadequate test and treatment centres in the country.

They said that adequate test and treatment centres are very important to the management of Ebola outbreak among other measures such as sufficient isolation facilities and protective kits for medical personnel.

According to them, it is unheard of for a country of over 160 million people to rely on four test centres at a time it is faced with a deadly disease that has, in the World Health Organisation’s estimation, killed 1,552 people in West Africa.

The Ebola Virus Disease was on July 24, 2014 imported to Nigeria by a 40-year-old Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.

Shortly after Sawyer died of the disease on his arrival in Lagos, the Federal Government quickly rose to prevent the spread of the virus by putting in place many measures such as banning inter-state movement of corpses. It also promised to establish nine more test centres across the nation by September.

The Minster of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, had also announced the plans to send mobile laboratories to Enugu and Plateau states for the diagnosis of the virus following fears that some people might have contracted the disease in the two states.

President Goodluck Jonathan had equally announced the release of N1.9bn Special Intervention Fund for the management of Ebola.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuban Abati, had explained that the N1.9bn Ebola Fund would be used “to further strengthen on-going steps to contain the virus such as the establishment of additional isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, deployment of additional personnel, screening at borders, and the procurement of required items and facilities.”

In spite of these measures, a virologist, Dr. Akinjogunla Olajide, said the four testing centres for Ebola virus were not enough for the country with a population of over 160 million people.

He said each of the 36 states of the federation should have at least a test centre to handle emergency related to the outbreak of a deadly virus such as Ebola.

Olajide said the need for each state to have its test centre became necessary because of the difficulty that would be involved in transporting the sample of a suspected Ebola patient from a place like Cross River State to Lagos State as a result of the distance between the two states.

The virologist also said that the four test centres currently available in the country lacked necessary facilities.

Olajide said, “Containing the spread of Ebola virus requires specially trained personnel. The four centres we have in Nigeria today may boast of qualified personnel, but the major challenge that may hinder their effectiveness is inadequate facilities.”

He expressed the fear that there may be an outbreak of the Ebola disease in Port Harcourt in the next few days following the death in Port Harcourt of a doctor who treated a diplomat who contracted Ebola from Sawyer, the index case.

According to him, the victim must have interacted with many people before he succumbed to the disease.

Chukwu, the Health Minister had on Wednesday confirmed that the diplomat had contracted the virus, and that the Ebola virus was responsible for killing the late doctor.

He said, “A man who works for ECOWAS, a primary contact of the index case, evaded surveillance and travelled to Port Harcourt. He became ill and he went to a hospital in Port Harcourt for treatment.

“Although he recovered, the doctor who treated him died last week. The widow of the doctor alerted us and we investigated the case. It is now confirmed that the doctor died of Ebola. His widow has been put under quarantine.

“The ECOWAS staff member is also under quarantine. There is evidence that he had the virus but might have recovered. We cannot rule out the option that he still has the virus.”

The minister said 70 people were under surveillance in Port Harcourt.

The latest development brings the total number of Ebola cases in Nigeria to 15 from the 13 announced by the health minister on Monday.

The President, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Kayode Obembe, also believes that the four centres are not enough for the country with its huge population. He said that the centres were poorly equipped.

According to him, each state of the federation should have at least a test centre for effective prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus.

Obembe, who claimed that the Federal Government has the capacity to contain the spread of the Ebola virus, however, urged it to embark on rigorous training and re-training of health workers and volunteers involved in managing the centres.

Another medical practitioner, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, said the treatment of the Ebola disease involves a lot of financial resources, special training, kits and handling of the facilities, which may be the reason the government could not dabble into making the facility available at every nook and cranny of the country.
He said, “If the government makes it available everywhere, it may expose the populace to the disease, but the government can at least have equipped treatment centres that have the capacity of combating the disease. However, the focus should be more on treatment centres, not testing centres, and the truth is that we don’t have adequate treatment centres across the country.
“However, I think every state should have about three treatment centres, which could be one per senatorial zone and about one or two testing centres in each state, because doing the test everywhere may lead to spreading the virus due to misplacement or any other thing.

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Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria’s Minister of Health

‘Ebola outbreak won’t  last up to six months in Nigeria’

The Ministry of Health has expressed its determination to stop the spread of the Ebola virus in the country before the end of the six months predicted by a non-governmental organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka Doctors Without Borders.

The organisation had said that it would take at least six months to contain the spread of the virus. The organisation’s President, Joanne Liu, said the situation was “deteriorating faster, and moving faster, than we can respond to.”

But the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Dan Nwomeh, said the ministry had partnered with the Federal Government and the 36 states to curb the spread of the disease before the period predicted by Doctors Without Borders.

He said, “What the ministry is doing is probably what you know. The Federal Government, with the ministry, has put certain measures in place to ensure that the outbreak does not last up to the predicted six months.”

Nwomeh added that the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, had expressed confidence that the disease would soon be brought to an end in the country.

He said, “The minister is very confident Nigeria’s case will not be up to six months. The World Health Organisation was only referring to West Africa as a whole, not specifically Nigeria.