Three persons out of 50 classified as high-risk contacts have been quarantined as in-house patients at the Ebola Isolation Unit, Eduoha in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the state government said yesterday.
Rivers State Health Commissioner, Dr. Sampson Parker, in his briefing yesterday on the virus, said the three persons were placed under observation through the state’s Contact Tracing Committee.
The three were said to have shown symptoms associated with the virus, he explained.
Parker added that the three persons – a doctor and pharmacist who work at Sam Steel Clinic (Enemuo’s clinic) as well as a female patient who was treated clinic – had been taken to the quarantine centre at Eduoha for closer examination and observation by a team of medical experts.
He further disclosed that 50 out of some 200 people under surveillance were categorised as high-risk because of their primary contact with the late Doctor Ike Enemuo.
In addition, Parker appealed to about 60 people who had secondary contact with the late Enemuo and who were yet to be located to come out and report themselves to the Rivers State Government’s medical team as quickly as possible.
He expressed regrets that some people were reluctant to present themselves to the medical team because of the stigma associated with the disease.
“Because of the stigma associated with the virus most people are reluctant to present themselves to our medical team. Although we have identified about 200 people, we still have to be in touch with about 60 of them. But 50 high-risk contacts have been identified.
“These persons are not coming forward because of the stigma, but we are still on them. For now, we are concentrating on these names that we have found while work is going on to locate new persons that may have had secondary contacts with Dr. Enemuo. We are currently tracing them so that we can capture them,” he said.
The commissioner disclosed that the state governor, Chibuike Amaechi, would be meeting with all church leaders today and traditional rulers tomorrow to solicit their cooperation in the state’s effort to contain the spread of the dreaded virus.
He appealed to pastors to avoid placing their hands on their congregants or hugging church members while praying for them.
Parker also disclosed that three contacts who had panicked and run away to Abia, Imo and Akwa Ibom States on the news of the death of Enemuo had returned to Port Harcourt and have now been placed under surveillance.
He commended the Commissioners for Health in Abia, Imo and Akwa Ibom States for cooperating fully with the Rivers State Government in tracing and persuading the secondary contacts to come back to Rivers State for proper examination and observation, adding: “The proper thing to do is to report to the government when you start feeling rather strange. Ebola is not a death sentence: those who reported themselves early to government were treated and are now well and fine.”
Parker also warned: “It is a crime to operate a health facility such as a clinic or hospital without a government permit. So we are appealing to all church leaders and pastors not to operate treatment centres behind their churches. We advise that instead of running to churches in search of a cure, anyone who had primary or secondary contact with Dr. Enemuo, or start developing symptoms of high fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, should immediately contact us through the available contact lines.
“As I speak with you, doctors, pastors, church members and drivers who had primary or secondary contact with late Dr. Enemuo are currently under observation. These are very unusual times, this is very serious so we advise that people should avoid as much as possible unnecessary body contact.”
Responding to a question, Parker assured the public that the morgue at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) had been decontaminated.
“I maintain that Sam Steel Clinic, Good Heart Hospital and the hotel where the diplomat, Olubukun Koye, lodged have been deactivated and decontaminated and now ready for use. These places are now safe for use,” he stated.
The Commissioner for Health, who disclosed that the late Enemuo died in a car while being rushed from Good Heart Clinic to another hospital in Port Harcourt, said the doctor that treated Enemuo, the driver and all those who handled or attended to the late doctor were all under observation.
“Dr. Enemuo’s wife is stable in Lagos. This is not the time to panic people with sensational stories. Let us join hands to encourage anyone showing the symptoms that we have mentioned to report themselves to government,” he said.
Abia Govt: Enemuo Had No Contact with State
Meanwhile, the Abia State Government has continued to take proactive measures to keep the dreaded Ebola virus at bay, more so as a medical doctor in neighbouring Rivers State was reported to have died of the disease.
It has also allayed the fears of residents by debunking the rumour being peddled that the late doctor had made contact with relatives in Aba.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Eze Chikamnayo, who briefed journalists at the weekend on the rumours, said the government had not dropped its guard against the Ebola war.
He said in addition to setting up isolation wards in designated hospitals, the government had set up a rapid response team and also acquired personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers.
“Government has made efforts in this regard, the commissioner for health has procured all the necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health care practitioners. We have got some facilities that will, in a proactive manner, prepare us in case of any unfortunate eventuality, but for now there is no case of Ebola in the state,” he said.
Chikamnayo debunked specualtions that the late Port Harcourt-based Enemuo had visited a relative in Aba before he succumbed to Ebola.
He said contrary to the “the irresponsible and unprofessional imaginary story of Ebola” carried by an Aba-based radio station, investigation had shown that the Port Harcourt-based medical doctor never visited Aba and in fact had no relative staying in the commercial city of Aba.
According to him, those that the late doctor had contact with had been taken to Lagos and quarantined by the federal health authorities, adding that none of the people concerned resides in any part of Abia State.
Nigeria Tightens Land Border Control
In addition, the federal government continued to step up measures to curb the spread of Ebola with the procurement of vehicles to beef up patrols at the nation’s borders, officials said at the weekend.
Minister of State for Health Khalliru Alhassan told a news conference in Sokoto that the government had formed a specialised rapid response team to effectively deal with the epidemic.
The team comprises doctors, medical laboratory scientists and other professionals, and also includes experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States and Medicins Sans Frontiers, an international humanitarian organisation.