By Vincent Ujumadu, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
AWKA —A CORPSE of an Anambra State indigene brought from Liberia, yesterday, caused scare of the dreaded Ebola disease in the state, with officials of the state ministry of health directing security operatives to cordon off the mortuary where the body was deposited pending investigations by experts from the Federal Ministry of Health.
The corpse was brought into the country as a cargo and was taken straight to Apex Hospital and Mortuary at Nkwelle Ezunaka in Oyi Local Government Area of the state, apparently by his relations and waiting for burial.
However, somebody from the community, who knew that the man died in Liberia where there have been deaths caused by Ebola disease, informed the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano. The Governor immediately directed the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Josephat Akabike to take action.
Addressing reporters in Awka, yesterday, Akabike said though it has not been confirmed that the man died of the Ebola disease, there was need for precautionary measures to be taken.
He said: “We have already contacted the Federal Ministry of Health and we are expecting them to arrive the state any time from now. We have sealed the mortuary and the hospital and all the corpses and the people working there have been quarantined.
Mourtary, staff quarantined
“We are also making efforts to locate the family of the deceased to know their level of contact with the corpse when it arrived the country and everybody who had visited the mortuary will also be quarantined.
“We are surprised how the corpse came into Nigeria and Anambra State. It is shocking to us.
“We have directed the police to cordon off the area. Ebola is a very big threat and that is why we are taking all the measures.”
According to him, “the information was brought by somebody who acted fast, following the announcement we have been making since the disease was made known”, adding that his ministry has assembled its health team and got all the preventive materials ready.
LUTH tests 20 specimens, all negative
Meanwhile, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, yesterday, disclosed that over 20 specimens of suspected contacts of Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, have been received for analysis at its DNA molecular laboratory, since the confirmed case of Patrick Sawyer, the late Liberian that died of Ebola disease in Lagos on July 25, 2014.
The results of those samples have, however, been confirmed negative by virologists at the hospital. Confirming this yesterday, Chief Medical Director, Prof. Akin Osibogun said: “The samples which were sent from all over the country include mainly those of the late Sawyer’s contacts while he was being treated.
However, as the blood and fluid samples keep trooping to LUTH from doctors, Osibogun said none has tested positive except that of the late Liberian. He confirmed that the hospital has screened at least 20 blood/fluid samples for the deadly Ebola virus, but also admitted that more were being expected. He expressed confidence that LUTH laboratory has the capacity for the tests which involve high technology.
Continuing, Osibogun said: “The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, has the capability to make the diagnosis and I am sure you must have heard that the specimens were sent to this hospital and the diagnosis was made in this hospital.
“The specimens keep coming to LUTH because the Liberian patient was only one but we have received more than one specimen. None has tested positive so far. I don’t know the exact figure at this point but at one point we had well over 20 specimens that have been tested from 20 different contacts, people who were likely to have come in contact with the late Liberian. But it is a continuous thing. That 20 may not be a figure to work with because they keep sending specimens”.
He noted that “Ebola virus disease has an incubation period of two to 21 days. Some manifest earlier, while some manifest late, but between two to 21 days. The incubation period is used to quarantine the patient. If you keep a patient for one month and the virus does not manifest, the suspect might be let out of quarantine. But what is important is to watch out for signs and symptoms”.
How Ebola is transmitted
Osibogun advised that at this point, it is important to bear in mind how the disease is transmitted. “It is usually by any contact with any body fluid, blood, sweat and saliva. We should wash our hands as often as possible as we can just to reduce the chances of contamination. It is going to be difficult avoiding crowded places.”
He also disclosed that in a disease outbreak like Ebola, it is needful to corroborate lab results with a second laboratory to ensure accuracy of result, which he said they have been doing since the case of the late Liberian.
He said already LUTH has set up a team to handle any crisis arising from an unexpected spread of the disease. He said: “We put in place isolation mechanism, and barrier mechanisms. Everything is on standby in the event there is any case in the hospital. The Lagos State Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Health have also been carrying out enlightenment campaign where they have health education units to educate members of the public on how to protect themselves against exposure and to recognise and to have a high level index of suspicion. So that if there is any suspected case, the report is quickly made.
“I think we should commend that private hospital because they demonstrated high index of suspicion. They were able to keep the patient and declined to allow the patient leave the hospital and they immediately alerted federal and state authorities.
“The Federal and State authorities have since stepped in to investigate and try to trace the contacts while specimen are still being received and tested to see if any of the contacts are at risk. We need to reduce body contact. People no longer shake hands. The thing about communicable diseases is that there must be an agent that is transmissible from one person to the other. It is either that agent or product of the agent or a part of that agent that must be transmissible from an infected person to susceptible host. So that is very clear so the virus must go from one person, but in this case, it is virus. But in some conditions, it could be the product of the virus, a toxin from the virus can be transmitted to somebody in some other diseases, but in this instance, the virus must be transmitted from one person to another.
“We have the technology to detect the virus or its products or its parts through DNA technology. For instance, we have the technology in this hospital to detect even when the person is not sick but it is just in the incubation period which means the patient is already incubating the agent only that it hasn’t manifested the symptoms. The manifestation of the symptoms is the totality of the interactions between the virus and the body. So it takes some time.”
Ebola Red Alert worldwide
Meantime, fears that the West African Ebola outbreak could spread to other continents are growing with European and Asian countries on alert as a leading medical charity warn the epidemic is out of control.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the crisis gripping Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would only get worse and warned there was no overarching strategy to handle the world’s worst outbreak of the disease. US Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse was temporarily withdrawing its non-essential staff from Liberia, it said, citing regional “instability and ongoing security issues”.
Hong Kong announced quarantine measures for suspected cases, although one woman arriving from Africa with possible symptoms tested negative, while the EU said it was ready to deal with the threat. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has held talks with global health officials on potential measures to halt the spread of the disease. In Britain, where one person has tested negative for the disease, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it was regarded as “a very serious threat”
An emergency meeting had decided that the best approach was to provide “additional resources to deal with the disease at source” in West Africa, he added.
Ebola can kill victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding. 57 more deaths from the Ebola epidemic spreading alarm in West Africa have pushed the overall fatality toll from the outbreak to 729, the World Health Organization said yesterday. The 57 deaths were recorded between Thursday and Sunday last week in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the UN health agency said in a statement.
It added that 122 new cases were detected over the four days, taking the total number of confirmed and likely infected cases to 1,323.Bart Janssens, MSFs director of operations, warned that governments and global bodies had no “overarching view” of how to tackle the outbreak. This epidemic is unprecedented, absolutely out of control and the situation can only get worse, because it is still spreading”, he said.