Nigeria begins screening for Ebola virus at airports

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Aug 1st, 2014
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Panic in Anambra over body 

Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo ready to fight virus 

World death toll 729

S/Leone, Liberia declare emergency

Nigeria has begun the screening of passengers entering the country through the airports.

The World Health organisation (WHO) announced yesterday that the death toll from Ebola has topped 700 worldwide.

In Anambra State, there was uproar following fears that a body brought in from Liberia is believed to be of a person who died from the virus.

The mortuary where the body was deposited has been sealed by the state government.

Twenty-five patients and the staff of the hospital have been quarantined while a specialist team from the Federal Ministry of Health were being awaited.

Apart from Anambra, Edo, Bayelsa and Ondo states have taken preventive measures.

Workers from various agencies operating at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja were yesterday sensitised by Port Health officials on the dangers posed by the virus and how to prevent its spread.

The awareness campaign was to complement other measures already put in place by Port Health at the international airports to prevent the presence and spread of the virus in the country.

Federal Ministry of Health’s Port Service Director  Sani Gwarzo urged Aviation stakeholders to be abreast of the dangers posed by the virus.

Port Health officials have been deployed in Lagos and Abuja airports’ arrival halls to test passengers for symptoms of Ebola.

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said yesterday that it had started temperature screening passengers arriving from places at risk of Ebola. It has suspended pan-African airline ASky for bringing the first case to Lagos.

“Screening and monitoring is being done at all major international airports. It entails checking passengers’ temperature with a hand-held machine,” NCAA spokesman Sam Adurogboye said, adding this meant for any journey that passed through Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. A compulsory blood test would follow if a passenger’s temperature gives cause for concern, he said.

International airlines association IATA said WHO was not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the outbreak, and says there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew.

A holding area has been provided at the tarmac for suspected cases while index cases are expected to be isolated in a designated area outside the airport for further examination and treatment.

The deaths of 57 more people from Ebola in West Africa have pushed the overall fatality toll from the epidemic to 729, the WHO said yesterday. The 57 deaths were recorded between Thursday and Sunday last week in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria where Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry in his 40s, collapsed on arrival at the Lagos airport on July 20 on an ASky flight. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, but died early on July 25.

The UN health agency said in a statement that 122 new cases were detected over those four days, taking the total number of confirmed and likely infected cases from the outbreak so far to 1,323. WHO said the trend in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “remains precarious with ongoing… transmission of infection”.

Guinea is suffering the worst from the disease, which causes often fatal bleeding and has no vaccine. The country’s authorities reported 20 more deaths, apparently from Ebola in the last four days of last week, taking its national fatility figure to 339.

Liberia saw 27 more deaths, for a total national death toll of 156. Sierra Leone reported nine more deaths for a total 233 dead.

“This is a major public health emergency. It’s fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread,” Lewis Brown, Liberia’s information minister, told Reuters. “We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get.”

Security forces in Liberia were ordered to enforce the action plan, which includes placing all non-essential government workers on 30-day compulsory leave.

The U.S. Peace Corps said on Wednesday it was temporarily withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and that two of its volunteers had been isolated and were under observation after coming in contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus.

The Peace Corp has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia and 130 in Sierra Leone working in education, health and agriculture.

The State Department has confirmed that one U.S. citizen died from Ebola in Nigeria after being infected in Liberia. Two other American aid workers infected with Ebola, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, are in serious condition, but they have shown slight improvement. They were part of a team in Liberia from North Carolina-based Christian relief groups Samaritan’s Purse and SIM.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters that President Barack Obama had been briefed on Tuesday by his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and that the White House was monitoring the deadly outbreak.

“The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has said this is not a risk to the United States at this time,” Schultz told reporters traveling with the president back to Washington from Kansas City, Missouri. He said the U.S. government had increased assistance to countries battling Ebola.

Schultz said the White House would proceed with a planned U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington Aug. 4-6 that about 50 Africa leaders are expected to attend to discuss trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

Liberia’s President Surleaf said she would not be attending the summit but that Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and a few cabinet ministers “whose presence are absolutely necessary” would attend.

“We have no plans to change any elements of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as we believe all air travel continues to be safe,” Schultz said.

The body from Liberia was deposited in one of the hospitals in Nkwelle Ezunaka, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The state government has  directed security operatives to cordon off the mortuary where the body was deposited pending investigations by experts from the Federal Ministry of Health.

The information on the suspected Ebola disease body from Liberia was relayed to the state government by a member of the community.

Health Commissioner Dr. Josephat Akabuike said though it had not been confirmed that the man died of Ebola disease, there was need for precautionary measures.

Akabuike 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 bodies and the people working there have been quarantined.

“We are also making efforts to locate the family of the deceased to know their level of contact with the body when it arrived the country and everybody who visited the mortuary will also be quarantined.

“We are surprised how the body 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,” Akabuike said.

Bayelsa State has established health lines as part of measures to check possible spread of the deadly virus.

Governor Seriake Dickson broke the news yesterday at the Peace Park, Yenagoa, during the commemoration of the 2014 World Hepatitis Day.

Dickson, who was represented by Commissioner for Health Dr. Ayibatonye Owei, said the health lines were set up to enable people report cases similar to Ebola.

He, however, assured people that there was no outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria, apart from an isolated case that occurred in Lagos.

“We only have one case and by the grace of God there will not be an outbreak. We are  taking proactive measures to ensure that we don’t have an outbreak,” he said.

But he advised the people to maintain high level of hygiene and to observe hand washing as part of their daily routine.

“Operation wash your hands should start in Bayelsa. Whatever you are doing, wash your hands. Keep washing your hands because hand washing prevents many diseases”, he said.

He told the people that Hepatitis B is a silent killer because the disease only becomes manifest at its final stages.

Dickson, who inaugurated vaccination against Hepatitis B, however, said the diseases caused by hepatitis could be prevented by vaccination.

“This will go a long way to reduce huge funds that would have been spent in treating the victims. It is for this reason that government has agreed to support this vaccination”, he said.

Edo State Government said there was no trace of the deadly disease in the state. He, however, advised the people to remain vigilant and report any suspicious case to the nearest health facility.

Commissioner for Health, Dr Aihanuwa Eregie, at a news conference yesterday, said the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with WHO and other health partners, carried out disease surveillance in all parts of the state to ensure early detection of any outbreak and the timely containment and control of same.

The commissioner said since a case of the Ebola Virus had been confirmed in Nigeria, there was need for everyone to be extra vigilant to prevent the virus in Edo State because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.

Ondo State Commissioner for Health Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, at a one-day

sensitisation meeting with public and private health practitioners, said the government would be proactive on the prevention of Ebola Virus.

According to him, the state has designated three hospitals with facilities to quarantine any suspected case.

The centres are Federal Medical Centre, Owo for the Northern Senatorial District, State Specialist Hospital, Akure for the Central Senatorial District and the State Specialist Hospital, Okitipupa to take care of the South.

Besides, the state will train 30 barrier nurses who will be at the designated centres.

According to Adeyanju, Public Health Care(PHC), Hospital Management

Board(HMB), Ministry of Health and private practitioners will collaborate to fight the disease.

“If we choose not to do anything, it may be more dangerous than Boko Haram. We must strengthen our surveillance; we should be on our toes to wage serious war against the disease in our state in particular and our country in general,” Adeyanju said.

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