He Lagos State Government on Monday said 59 people in the state came in contact with the 40-year-old Liberian who died of Ebola virus in Lagos.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who made this known in Ikeja, explained that the number consisted of 44 health care workers and 15 others at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
The commissioner said the government had not been able to establish the number of contacts the Liberian had on the plane that flew him into Nigeria because the management of Asky Airline had not provided it with the manifest.
He however said that out of the 55 known contacts, 20 had been screened and released.
Idris said, “So far, 59 contacts have been registered, consisting 44 hospital contacts (38 health care workers and six laboratory staff) and 15 airport contacts. The 15 airport contacts comprise three ECOWAS staff-driver, Liaison, and Protocol Officer, Nigerian Ambassador to Monrovia, two nursing staff and five airport passenger handlers.
“As of the time of this report, 20 contacts had been physically screened of which 50 per cent had type one contact and 50 per cent had had type two contact.
“Airline manifest has not been provided by the airline and therefore the precise number of passenger contacts has yet to be ascertained, especially as two flights were involved (Monrovia-Lome and Lome-Lagos). There was no report of medical incident and the General Declaration report of the flight.”
The commissioner, who advised Nigerians not to panic, said nobody in the country had been infected with the virus.
He added that the state and the federal governments were working to ensure that the virus did not infect anybody in the country.
Idris said, “We can categorically state that as of today, we have only one case of imported Ebola and death. No Nigerian is infected, but all contacts are being actively followed.
“We call on all Nigerians to be calm and not panic. We assure them that both the state and the Federal Government are up in arms to ensure that the virus did not escape and that no Nigeria is infected with this virus.”
He stated that the state government was working with national and international bodies to be on top of the situation and prevent any unpleasant development.
“The National Centre for Disease Control of the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation established an Incident Command Centre that coordinates the Rapid Response Team activities on the field. Five working groups were established, namely: (i) Contact tracing, Surveillance & Laboratory (ii) Health education/Social mobilisation (iii) Case management and infection prevention/control (iv) Logistics (v) Data management.
“An Emergency Operations centre was also activated at the conference room of Central Public Health Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos, which also serves as the secretariat. WHO provided technical support and action plan was developed. The Port Health Services of the FMOH, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Aviation has put in motion mechanisms to track down all contacts at high risk.
“An isolation ward has been designated by the Lagos State Ministry of Health at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba for case management. The designation of three other health facilities is underway.”
The commissioner, who said that the government was decontaminating the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende where the Liberian was taken to during his illness, added that his body was decontaminated and cremated.
“Adhering strictly to WHO guidelines, the body of the deceased patient was decontaminated using 10 per cent sodium hypochlorite and cremated, with the permission of the government of Liberia. A cremation has been prepared for dispatch to the family. The vehicle that conveyed the remains was also fully decontaminated,” Idris said.
He stressed that a call-in team had been established for the public to dial and obtain any information on Ebola virus.
The commissioner also said traditional and religious leaders had been alerted to the disease and had been told to report any symptom promptly to health care workers.
The Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Health, Dr. Yewande Adesina, said Ebola illness initially gives symptom of malaria and difficulty in eating.
She said, “After these, the patient could be vomiting and stooling as if he has diarrh0ea. Later, blood would be coming out from the eyes, ears, nose, anus and private parts.
“So if we are taking care of a patient that we believe has malaria, we should always wash our hands with water and soap. Once we recognise the symptom of Ebola illness, we should alert the team set up by the government and also monitor update through the media.
“Now, we advise that charms and prayers cannot stop the virus.”
It will be recalled that the Liberian entered the country on July 20 via Lome on Asky Airline Flight KP50.
He was said to be on his way to Calabar, Cross River State for the 8th ECOWAS Retreat of Heads of Offices as a senior ECOWAS official in Liberia.
He was also reported to have been very ill on arrival at the airport in Lagos and was assisted by some airport and ECOWAS protocol staff to a private hospital in Obalende .
It was said that when he showed the symptom of Ebola virus, the hospital notified the state Ministry of Health which also notified the Federal Ministry of Health.
The patient was said to have died at about 6.50am on July 25.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority announced the suspended all ASky Airline operations in Nigeria on Monday.
NCAA’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, said in a statement that the suspension took immediate effect.
He quoted the organisation’s Acting Director-General, Mr. Benedict Adeyileka, as saying that the action was taken to protect Nigerians from Ebola virus.
The statement read in part, “ ASky was invited to the Aviation House to show evidence of actions it had taken since the pandemic in their core areas of operation and after.
“The Airline representative could not offer any conclusive or substantial evidence neither did he demonstrate any capacity to be able to prevent a re-occurrence or possibly ship loading Ebola victims to Nigeria.
“This is contrary to the provision of Article 14 of the Chicago Convention,1944, which states that ‘Each contracting state agrees to take effective measures to prevent the spread by means of air navigation, of cholera, typhus (epidemic), smallpox, yellow fever, plague and such other communicable diseases as the contracting state shall from time to time decide to designate.”
“The airlines operations were therefore suspended with immediate effect until it is able to sufficiently and evidently prove that adequate machinery is in place to provide adequate screening of passengers in all their points of operation, including profiling of each passenger.”
Also on Monday, Liberia closed most of its borders in a bid to halt the spread of Ebola virus.
The authorities decided to close the borders after a third doctor, who was working to contain the virus in West Africa, contracted the disease.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said only five entry points, including James Spriggs Payne Airport in Monrovia and Roberts International Airport, remained open.
‘‘Preventive and testing centres will be established at the five entry points for all outgoing and incoming travellers,’’ she added.
Johnson-Sirleaf also announced restrictions on public gatherings and requested hotels, restaurants, entertainment centres and video clubs, to show educational Ebola prevention videos.
According to the President, Liberia is planning to install facilities to wash hands in government facilities and public places across the country.
‘‘Communities seriously affected by the Ebola outbreak will be quarantined,’’ she stressed.
An American doctor, Kent Brantly, working to stop the outbreak, was infected with Ebola and is being treated at an isolation centre.
Brantly became the third doctor in less than a week to fall ill with the virus.
A Liberian doctor, Samuel Brisbane, died on Saturday at a clinic in Monrovia, while Sierra Leone’s leading Ebola specialist, Sheikh Umar Khan, became ill last week.
WHO officials said the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia was the deadliest ever.
Ebola virus causes massive haemorrhages and has a fatality rate of 90 per cent. It is transmitted through blood and other body fluids.
However, due to the suspension of flights to Liberia by major airlines in Nigeria, some passengers to Monrovia and Banjul are now stranded in some parts of the country, including Lagos.
At the MMA, on Monday, one of our correspondents saw some passengers, including Nigerians, trying to make alternative plans to travel to Monrovia.
Some of the stranded passengers said they would fly to Ghana or Benin Republic first, before connecting another flight to their destinations.
A Liberian, Mr. Michael Nelson, told The PUNCH that he had been coming to Nigeria on a regular basis in the past five years without any problem until now.