Less than 24 hours before this year’s Christmas, the Lagos State Government has advised Lagosians to be at alert on Ebola virus during the Yuletide celebrations.
Making the disclosure at the weekend in Lagos, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, urged all Lagos residents to call the Ebola Help line or the Local Government nearest to them in case of any suspected Ebola case during the festive period.
He also urged residents to observe good personal and environmental hygiene as well as follow advice given by the State Government on the prevention of the Ebola Virus Disease.
According to Idris, “Presently, there is no active case of Ebola in the country but Ebola is still a threat in neigbouring West Africa countries and this puts the nation at risk. This is why we need to be on the alert and observe a high degree of personal and environmental hygiene especially during this season of celebrations to prevent the disease from resurfacing in the country again”.
He further advised citizens to take basic precautionary measures against the disease by washing their hands with soap and water frequently, particularly after touching sick people; avoid direct contact with body fluids like saliva, vomit, stool, semen, vaginal fluids and urine of suspected persons and avoid eating fruits half eaten by animals.
The Commissioner also urged citizens to cook all foods particularly meat thoroughly before eating, clean all surfaces that have been contaminated with body secretions with bleach or detergents and desist from sharing sharp objects such as needles and razor blade.
“Please, do not defecate or urinate indiscriminately and notify the health authority of anyone coming from any West African Country into your community. Be assured that the Lagos State Government is still carrying out active search for cases while follow-up on rumoured cases are on- going and we will keep providing you with update and disease prevention messages”, Idris stated.
The Commissioner added that signs and symptoms of Ebola include unexplained fever that does not respond to usual treatment, intense weakness, rashes, vomiting and diarrhoea which may be accompanied by bleeding from body openings like the ear, nose, mouth and anus.
Idris posited that Ebola Virus Disease is not a death sentence stressing that a sizeable number of those who contracted the disease are still alive adding that herbal remedies have not been proven to be efficacious.
While urging health workers to keep observing the universal safety precautions when dealing with patients, the Commissioner noted that early detection of the disease and care can save lives.
When laboratory confirmation of the country’s first Ebola case, in Lagos, was announced on 23 July, the news rocked public health communities across the country.
There were panics amongst Nigerians. Not only because of the virus but because of the country’s population, for a disease outbreak, it is also a powder keg.
The number of people living in Lagos is around 18 million and Lagos is one of Africa’s largest city, also characterised by a large population living in crowded and unsanitary conditions in many slums.
The question before the State Government according to the State Commissioner for health, Dr Jide Idris was “How can contact tracing be done under such conditions?” This was the main concern raised at the beginning, shortly after the first confirmed case was announced.
However, with the assistance from WHO, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, government health officials reached 100 percent of known contacts in Lagos and 99.8 percent at the second outbreak site, in Port Harcourt.
Federal and State governments in Nigeria provided ample financial and material resources, as well as well-trained and experienced national staff.
Isolation wards were immediately constructed, as were designated Ebola treatment facilities, though more slowly. Vehicles and mobile phones, with specially adapted programmes, were made available to aid real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward.
The Ebola virus was imported by Late Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian – American on 20 July via an infected Liberian air traveller, who died 5 days later. At the departure airport, he was visibly very ill, lying on the floor of the waiting room while awaiting the flight.
He vomited during the flight, on arrival and, yet again, in the private car that drove him to a private hospital. The protocol officer who escorted him later died of Ebola.
At the hospital, he told staff that he had malaria and denied any contact with an Ebola patient. As was learned later, his sister was a confirmed case who had died from the disease in Liberia. The traveller visited his sister while in hospital and attended her traditional funeral and burial ceremony.
As malaria is not transmitted from person to person, no staff at the hospital took protective precautions. Over the coming days, nine doctors and nurses became infected and four of them died.