The issue of Ebola virus with six confirmed Nigerian victims has become a matter of national emergency, the Federal Government said, Wednesday. The alarm was raised by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, and the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, while briefing State House correspondents of the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo, according to reports from Punch. According to the Health minister, he had written the United States Centre for Disease Control, if they could make the experimental drugs being used in treating the US missionary doctors infected with the virus available to Nigeria. Chukwu said at the time he was briefing journalists he had yet to receive response from the Centre.
The minister also said the government had decided to embark on mass recruitment of health personnel to strengthen the team managing the situation in Lagos where all the Nigerian cases were recorded. He expressed the hope that the Nigeria Medical Association will soon call off its industrial action to join in the emergency service since government had met almost all their demands. Chukwu added that the government had also started the process of procuring isolation tents that will be distributed to all the states of the Federation and Abuja to cater for those who will be quarantined because of the virus. This, he said, had become necessary because residents were raising objections to housing the patients close to them. He put the cost of one of such isolation tents at about N20m.
“We have a national emergency. Indeed, everyone in the world is at risk. Nobody is immune. The Nigerian experience had alerted the world because every country is connected by flights,” he said.
He further disclosed that the government had set up a special team to provide counseling to patients and their families. He said the Minister of Information would soon visit Lagos State to assess the situation and sensitise residents on the deadly virus. The minister advised the public to avoid handshake as much as possible if they could afford it, describing the virus as both contagious and infectious.
He said the virus could also be contacted through the sharing of bedspreads, pillow cases and towels among other personal effects with infected persons. On update on casualty, Chukwu said Nigeria has so far recorded seven confirmed cases of Ebola virus, including the first case of the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who imported it to the country. He said one of the nurses who cared for Sawyer was the first known Nigerian to die of the disease on Tuesday. He said the other five victims were currently in an isolated ward in Lagos. He added that three other persons in the isolated ward had not been confirmed to be carrying the virus. The patients, he explained, had direct contacts with the late Sawyer.
As part of strategies to rise to the national emergency, Chukwu said a website, www.ebolaalert.org, has been designed to offer information on the virus. While disclosing a Twitter handle, @ebolaalert, the minister added that help could also be reached through a toll-free telephone line designated for that purpose. Maku said the FEC meeting was devoted to the measures being taken by government to deal with the outbreak of the virus. He recalled that the council had set up a committee about two weeks to sensitise citizens to avoid unhealthy practices.