Please no more handshake, keep your hands in your pocket until we contain the disease”.
The foregoing were the words of Governor Chibuike Amaechi in Government House, Port Harcourt four days after the first death was recorded from Ebola virus in the state.
Though it is not in any law book in the state but it is now like a taboo to shake hands in Government House, Port Harcourt. This new culture that came with the first recorded case of death from Ebola virus is gradually becoming the norm in several parts of the state.
The whole of last week, friends, colleagues and business associates who ordinarily would shake hands as part of their greetings and exchange of banters merely waved or cup their right fist in the air, saying “ I greet you in Jesus name” or “ Ebola greetings”.
The state government had consistently maintained that there was no Ebola case in the state until last week Thursday when the Commissioner for Health, Dr Sampson Parker announced with a heavy heart the first casualty of the dreaded virus. According to him, Doctor Iyke Sam Enemuo who died from Ebola virus treated a diplomat, a staff of Economic Community of West Africa, ECOWAS, who escaped from a quarantine centre in Lagos to Port Harcourt.
The diplomat was reportedly in the team that received the index case, late Patrick Sawyer when he came to the country. Like others who contracted the virus from Sawyer the diplomat also did.
Why treat the Diplomat in a hotel?
It was not clear who asked the diplomat to check into a hotel in Port Harcourt for his treatment. But the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Parker confirmed that the diplomat checked into a hotel in the state capital. And the late Dr. Enemuo was going there to treat him.
The Diplomat who allegedly fled a quarantine centre in Lagos chose to remain incommunicado, switching off his phones while in Port Harcourt.
He reportedly regained his health and headed back to the quarantine centre in Lagos, apparently for a certificate of clean health.
But how come the Diplomat received his treatment in a hotel when Dr Enemuo ran a clinic on East West road in Rumuokoro area of Obio Akpor local government area, Rivers state is the question on many lips. The Diplomat and his late doctor could certainly answer the question. Meantime, speculations had it that the late doctor, Enemuo didnot want his patients in his hospital to be affected with the virus and that was why he arranged for the Diplomat to be treated in a hotel.
Another angle to the story said the diplomat feared he could be tracked to any hospital so he offered to hide in a hotel and take his treatment. A third dimension to the issue said the diplomat and his deceased doctor feared that if he was admitted into a hospital, staff of the place could tip government off on the presence of an Ebola patient.
Meantime, one week after the Diplomat left, Dr Enemuo took ill. His wife who is also a doctor took up the responsibility to manage him. When the situation seemed like it was getting out of hand, they reportedly approached the first hospital that rejected him until the Medical Director, Good Heart Clinic offered to assist. Dr Enemuo vomitted blood and was stooling. The Medical Director of the Good Heart hospital who suspected that the patient could have contracted the virus, alerted the state Ministry of Health. Blood samples were taken but Dr Enemuo died before the result which confirmed he had Ebola came out.
Painfully, his wife according to the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Parker showed symptoms of the disease and was quarantined. At the time of this report the Commissioner said about 100 persons who had primary and secondary contact with the deceased were on the watch list of the state government.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the late Enemuo and his wife have a three-month old female child.
Corpse of late Enemuo caused panic at UPTH
The remains of the late Dr Enemuo deposited at the morgue of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching hospital caused tension as families hurriedly discharged their relatives from the hospital. Some workers in the morgue lamented that they were not told when the Corpse was brought in, that it was a case of Ebola virus.
A top staff of the hospital who spoke off camera said there was no need to panic as all measures had been taken to ensure the corpse did not create problem for staff.
Residents who offered comments to the Vanguard said the corpse should have been cremated. “Since a test had confirmed that it was an Ebola case, cremation should have been done on it rather than keep it in the morgue”.”Government should shut down the morgue”, another staff said.
Hand sanitizer sells for N1000 and above
Hand sanitizer that hitherto sold for N300 has suddenly gone up to N1000 and above as most organisations insist as an un written code that the liquid must be applied on the hand before any one steps into their officers. Some organisations even went a step further to acquire easy handle equipment to test body temperature. A security man told the Vanguard that temperature above 36 were politely turned back at the company’s gate.
Long sleeve shirts now in vogue
Fear that the virus is contracted from body fluid like sweat, spittle, and so on have triggered off a new sense of fashion in Port Harcourt.You see more longsleev shirts on streets now.” I wear longsleev shirts now because it protects my body from fluid in other people s body.”
Commercial sex workers lament low patronage
Commercial sex workers who hang around night life areas in the new GRA , Port Harcourt grumbled about poor patronage since the outbreak of the disease. “ I am an Aristo, ( a euphemism for commercial sex workers,) Ebola has spoilt our runs. Its so bad now that the real men dont come around anymore. You see small small boys coming to take advantage of the bad weather to talk sex with us”, a giel said.
Ebola is politics
Surprisingly youths who spoke to the Vanguard at some local restaurants code named Long bench in Port Harcourt said the whole issue of Ebola was riddled with politics. “How do you convince me that a state that said there was no Ebola case a day before suddenly woke up the next day to say they had 100 persons on its watch list. I am confused. It is all politics. I am not saying it is not there but the various governments are playig politics with it. How do you say people are on watchlist yet they walk freely on our streets”, this source queried.
Youths in Emohua protest location of Quarantine centre
Before the outbreak of Ebola in the state youths of Emohua local government had protested against the siting of the Ebola quarantine centre in Oduoha community in the local government. They feared that the disease was airborne. It took effort of the state Commissioner of Health, Dr Parker to calm them. Some had also said the local government already housed Disease control hospital so it would be unfair to site Ebola quarantine centre in the area.
Meantime, governor Amaechi has assured that the state was capable to contain spread of the virus, adding that it would work with the federal government and other foreign based organisations to manage the situation.
“I don’t want anybody infected to feel shy and possibly take it to the rural areas because it could affect your children, family and relations and may result to death. That will be too disastrous. When you have high fever that you can’t account for, please, don’t go to any Primary health centre, come to the corridors of government and our doctors will pick you and give you adequate treatment. It is not a case all doctors can handle. Our doctors will take care of your medical treatment, feed you, so you can survive. You can see that a lot of patients infected by the Ebola virus have been successfully discharged in Lagos State. That is because of the quick response by those who reported and received adequate medical care,””There is no need to panic because the Ebola virus is not air borne.”, he said.
The fear of Ebola has suddenly gripped all residents of the state. All you hear in Port Harcourt is” God save us from Ebola”.