By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
LIKE wild Harmattan fire, the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) continued to spread yesterday across the globe with Nigeria recording two more cases and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring a global health emergency.
Coming on a day President Goodluck Jonathan approved a N1.9 billion special fund to combat the disease, the Federal Government said it has confirmed two more cases of EVD bringing the total number of cases in Nigeria to to nine.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has summoned the ministers of Health and Information to brief him on the EVD situation in the country.
Disclosing this development yesterday during a media briefing in Lagos, Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu said the total of confirmed EVD cases in the country is now nine. Two of which are deceased while 139 others are under surveillance.
Chukwu who briefed the press in the company of the Minster of Information , Mr Labaran Maku and Director of the National Center for Diseases Control, NCDC, Prof Abdulsalami Nasidi among other top functionaries, said all confirmed cases were being managed in Lagos under quarantine.
Giving the current status of the outbreak, Chukwu said; “Since the last time I addressed you on Tuesday when I informed the global community that Nigeria has confirmed seven cases of Ebola Virus Disease, between then and today we have additional two confirmed cases.
“The total now is nine confirmed cases of which two are late. They are the same two we told you about earlier, the index case and the health worker who we unfortunately lost some days ago. So as at this morning, total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria stands at nine. Eight are Nigerian and one was an American – Liberian. Seven are alive and receiving treatment in Lagos. “
28.5% case fertility
The Minister affirmed that so far Nigeria’s case fertility rate is 28.6 percent. “In the ECOWAS region, the case fertility rate stands at 55 percent which means 46 percent of people who have suffered Ebola are alive and living witnesses. I want to reiterate again that in the last 48 hours we have confirmed two additional EVD cases here in Nigeria . They are Nigerians and are people who have had contact with the index case and as at today our fatality is two.
“ We do not want anybody to be lost. They are surviving and we are treating them here in Lagos. There are more suspected cases. We will let the media know the result of these suspected cases that we are currently monitoring,” Chukwu remarked.
Assuring Nigerians that having Ebola does not mean being confined to death because there are survivors he said almost half of those affected in West Africa are survivors.
“As we talk, we have suspected cases being investigated. But we only announce confirmed cases. Sometimes they turn out to be negative sometimes we have a few who are positive as we experienced between Tuesday and today. All those we have placed under surveillance are 139 now. This is the update in our statistics. “
FG/states joint efforts
Chukwu who told the press that he was in Lagos with his team to assess the level of progress on the containment efforts of the Joint Federal and state Task Force on the EVD, said there had been several hours of productive meeting with other officials of the Lagos state involved in the response.
“They have shared experience of how they have been able to contain this disease even with two international experts.”
He said the process was a high risk job but many persons had volunteered to protect the nation.
“ We learned about some of their challenges and agreed on what to do right away. We learned about the things they want government to do and we have the resources.”
On the assessment of outcome of their findings, the minister said: “It has been a good lesson for myself as well as the Minister of Information. We have learned a lot even beyond what they have told us about what they are doing.”
Hot water and salt bath is no cure
Chukwu who expre-ssed satisfaction at the current response efforts, however described as unfortunate comments being circulated by some people that hot water with salt will cure Ebola Virus Disease.
“This is a complete lie and total fallacy and a wicked rumour. We want the rumour to be debunked. There is no evidence to support it, there is no truth in it. Absolutely it is total rubbish, it doesn’t make sense that when you pour water on yourself and add salt, it will stop Ebola. If anything you are going to have other problems. “Let us manage EVD, do not give us communicable disease please. I’m going to go back and discuss with the appropriate authorities and look at our laws,” he warned.
He said the Federal government needed to fish out and prosecute the people responsible. “I believe Nigeria has laws against people like these. If there’s are no laws we would work towards making these laws. People who do not wish us well must be fished out and punished through the law courts.
“It is not right to complicate matters for this country. We have a problem, we had an imported case for which now we are suffering the complications.”
While admitting the grave challenge of tackling the Ebola threat, the minster, however, said government was not resting on its oars.
“ Government is doing everything possible with all its development partners. Even while we are here, The US government is being represented by the Consul General, who reiterated the pledge of the US government to give additional assistance to Nigeria to combat the Ebola virus with other partners such as WHO, UNICEF and USAID.
“Even President Jonathan is on top of the situation. The first thing he did on his return from Washington was to summon the Minister of Health, who incidentally was in Lagos, So he invited the Minister of state for Health, the Permanent Secretary and the Chief Technologists of the Federation since they are in Abuja.
He said Mr President had directed him and his information counterpart to immediately report to the Presidency the outcome of their findings in Lagos, as soon they returned to Abuja.
“Government is not sparing any effort . He the government had approved money based on the request of the Federal Ministry of Health for the provision of additional materials to wage this battle against Ebola Virus Disease. The money is also to employ more people. One of the challenges is getting volunteers and all manner of health workers. We need doctors, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, those who will do administration, security and all those who can volunteer.
We will train you. You will be part of this. The government through the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, yesterday approved a number of new positions empowering the Federal Ministry of Health to do emergency recruitment of necessary personnel to be part of this battle,” he said.
He disclosed that Federal government has declared that all those participating in the care of Ebola Virus Disease patients and those participating in contact tracing should enjoy life insurance provided by government.