The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Monday said one of the doctors that treated the Liberian-born American, Patrick Sawyer, who died of the Ebola disease, had contracted the virus.
Chukwu made this known in Abuja as Reuters news agency quoted the Geneva-based World Health Organisation as saying in a statement that Nigeria had four cases, of which three were classed as ‘probable’ Ebola and one as ‘suspected.’
The death toll from the Ebola outbreak, according to WHO, rose from 729 to 887 by August 1. The total number of cases in the four West African countries affected is now 1,603.
Sawyer, who arrived at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos on July 20, died at an Obalende hospital five days after.
Chukwu said, ‘‘This is now the second case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria. This victim is one of the doctors who attended to the patient who brought Ebola virus to Nigeria.’’
He also told journalists in Abuja that ‘‘about eight other persons who came into contact with Sawyer, and who had developed the Ebola symptoms, had been quarantined while 70 others were under surveillance.’’
The minister said, “All those who came into contact with the late Sawyer depending on the level of contact are still being traced and being invited every day and they are placed under surveillance just to ensure that the spread of disease is curtailed.”
He added that the Federal Government was currently reinforcing the technical working group on Ebola to include 35 state governments. Lagos State already has a TWG.
The minister allayed the fears being expressed by the public about the corpses that were brought into Anambra and Imo states from some countries which already had records of the deadly disease.
He said, “Medical records have proved that the corpse taken to Imo State was not carrying Ebola while test is being carried out on the one taken to Anambra State.
‘‘We are collaborating with all the state governments to establish isolation wards for persons proven symptomatic to Ebola and a 24- hour emergency operation centre.”
The minister also on Monday inaugurated an Ebola Treatment and Research Group with a mandate to carry out an extensive research into the Ebola virus.
Chukwu said the group would receive and verify claims on Ebola cure; collate and analyse researches on the virus and advise the government as may be appropriate.
The group, according to the minister, has the Director – General of the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development and the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research as chairmen.
He added that the Nigerian researcher, who had found evidence of Bitter Kola inhibiting the growth of Ebola virus, Prof. Maurice Iwu ,and the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control are also members of the group. Iwu was also a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Chukwu said, “Although the research on bitter kola was not concluded, no progress can be made without research. For now, there is no scientifically proven vaccine or drug for the treatment of Ebola.”
He assured the public that the Federal Government was doing everything to stop the outbreak of the disease but enjoined everybody to embrace good hygiene by constantly washing their hands