Lagos state government has appealed to religious organizations including churches and mosques to step down on congregational activities that will bring a large number of worshippers together.
State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris said the appeal became necessary in the wake of heightened anxiety over the threat posed by the Ebola virus which is transmitted from human-to-human by body contact.
Idris stated that the female doctor who tested positive to the virus initially is still alive and it was the nurse who also contacted the disease from deceased Liberian Patrick Sawyer that died. Six other contacts have since tested positive.
“I seize this opportunity to appeal to Churches and Mosques to stop all religious gatherings, so as to prevent further spread of the virus,” Idris said, explaining that at such gatherings, sweating and body contacts were most likely to occur.
Meanwhile, the state government has confirmed that two of the primary contacts who tested positive to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), are in critical condition. The government also announced life insurance cover for doctors and other health workers who volunteer to work with experts monitoring and testing suspected and confirmed cases of EVD.
With the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) on strike and Ebola causing a serious scare, the government is experiencing shortage of health workers.
“We need more hands, because we have moved from the stage of primary contacts to secondary contacts. More volunteers are urgently needed especially contact trackers and case management personnel.
“Government is willing to take care of such volunteers especially in the following areas- safety to personal health; life insurance cover and whatever genuine need/assurance that may also be required,” the commissioner stated.
Stressing that the situation is quite critical, Idris assured: “We will provide life insurance for any doctor, nurse and other expert that wants to work with isolated patients. We are tracing all the people that had contact not just with Sawyer, but those that had contacts with the health workers and others that have died.
“We need volunteers now, and this is needed urgently to assist in tracking the contacts and to manage those who were already in isolation. This is the only way we can give those who have the virus the opportunity to survive.
“We need doctors, nurses and environmental health workers. Because this is a serious issue, the Governor Babatunde Fashola administration has accepted to give whatever those whom I mentioned earlier demanded for including life insurance.
“I can assure them of safety, and we will put them through the entire necessary prerequisite for safety. If we cannot provide the needed health workers within the country to manage the cases, foreigners will be unwilling to help.”
Explaining why more hands are needed urgently, Idris said 27 secondary contacts have been identified and addresses of others are being traced.
“It is a tedious task, because we will also be taking their blood samples for testing and we will be monitoring them.”
Idris also appealed to doctors to call off their strike, saying it will be morally unjustifiable for Nigeria to seek assistance from foreign medical practitioners when the country’s local doctors are unwilling to render services.
“We are appealing to the doctors on strike to resume work and set aside their grievances. No doubt this situation is a dire emergency and our health professionals must recognize that. It will be morally unjustifiable for us to call for help from the international community if our own experts and doctors are not working.”
He explained that out of the 70 persons suspected to have had contact with Patrick Sawyer, “results of five out of eight blood samples taken have been received with four testing positive while the fifth was negative, one died out of the eight, two critically ill and results of three still outstanding.”
Further, the state government called on businessmen not to hike prices of materials needed for health workers to carry out their operations in the course of managing victims of the virus. Materials such as gloves, decontamination equipment, chemicals and sanitizers are not expected to be cashed-in upon.
Information Nigeria however learnt that some retailers in Lagos are already hiking the price of hand sanitizers as demand for it rise exponentially.
Idris however called for vigilance, saying; “Once again I allay the fears of health workers who have the requisite expertise needed to manage these confirmed and probable cases. This is a call for vigilance as human-to-human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill (fever being a key sign) from Ebola virus through body fluids such as blood, urine, stool, saliva, breast milk, semen, and vomitus.
“In Africa, infection has also occurred through handling of infected chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, fruit bats, antelopes and porcupines. No case of transmission by domestic animals has been reported.
The state government has also urged the public to approach burial ceremonies and handling of corpses in line with recommendations of the World Health Organisation, WHO, for handling bodies of victims of EVD.
“Burial ceremonies where mourners including family members have direct contact with patients who died of Ebola have also played a role in the spread and direct contact with dead bodies should be minimized at this period, even as washing and burial /disposal of such bodies should be professionally handled with safety to personal health of handlers being a cardinal focus.
“We also count on the cooperation of the good people of Lagos State. In partnership with the Federal Government we may need to, in the course of taking decisions in the overriding interest of the public, institute measures that may be inconvenient to some people.”