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Nigeria completely free of active Ebola cases- Chukwu

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As the General Assembly, comprising of all 193 members of the United Nations meet in New York to among other things discuss on ways to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) ravaging three West African countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia), Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health has revealed that Nigeria is completely free of active Ebola cases and has released the final contacts from surveillance.

In an interview with David Kroll at Forbes, Chukwu said “Presently, there is no single case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria – none. No cases are under treatment, no suspected cases. There are no contacts in Lagos that are still under surveillance, having completed a minimum of 21 days of observation.

“None of them are showing any symptoms. Monday (22 September 2014) will mark the end of their 21 days of observation and the plan is to get them discharged from surveillance yesterday (Tuesday 23 September 2014). Nigeria will be as clean as any other country as far as Ebola virus disease is concerned.”

Until now, Rivers State had been home to over 400 contacts under medical surveillance. As of last night, only 25 contacts remained. The deadly disease was contained in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub and Port Harcourt.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country suffered only 21 Ebola cases with eight deaths recorded after the index case Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-America imported the deadly virus while on a trip for a meeting of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) in Calabar on July 23.

As Nigeria has been able to successfully contain the virus, preventing stigmatization of those under surveillance as well as Ebola survivors is still a challenge.

“Three terms became part of our lexicon: surveillance, quarantine, and isolation.  Surveillance is sort of like house arrest. You don’t criminalize them. The person is actually a victim, not a criminal. We monitor their movements, the rest of the family are counselled about what contact can and can’t be done. We have contact with them every day. You can imagine what this effort must have been like when we had 300 in Lagos and over 400 in Port Harcourt.”

“That is the first time we are denying that individual the comfort of his own bed. We put him in separately from the isolation ward from those who are confirmed. If malaria, we discharge them to their doctor to be treated for malaria,” the minister explained.

Interestingly, the Ebola survivors in Nigeria were managed by isolating the patients, replacing fluids and electrolytes and in some cases, blood transfusions were necessary.

The minister however praised the WHO Director General, Margaret Chan for sending physicians to Nigeria.

“We only knew about Ebola virus through our medical books. We’ve never seen a single case of Ebola virus until this year. So we needed someone with practical experience who had seen the virus to come and train our doctors what to do and the rest, and then we took over. It is important that we let the world know that WHO did well in sending us doctors with practical experience. But we also worked with the CDC, UNICEF, and MSF in managing the disease,” he concluded.

 

ALEXANDER CHIEJINA with wire report