Liberian-American patient branded a ‘madman’ as Nigeria confirms new Ebola case
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday branded a Liberian-American a “madman” for bringing Ebola into Nigeria, as the country announced its 10th confirmed case of the deadly virus.
Patrick Sawyer died in a Lagos hospital on July 25 in Nigeria’s first case of Ebola, which has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people in West Africa since the start of the year.
The 40-year-old, who was to have attended a meeting of the regional bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), was taken to hospital after arriving in Lagos on a flight from Monrovia via the Togolese capital, Lome.
A nurse who treated him died last week, while tests last weekend confirmed that another had also contracted the virus. Eight others have also tested positive, the government said.
“It is unfortunate that one madman brought the Ebola to us but we have to contain it,” Jonathan told faith leaders at a conference in the capital, Abuja, vowing the government would do “everything possible” to combat its spread.
Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s leading economy — had until last month been spared from Ebola, which has spread alarmingly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
But its arrival has sown fear throughout the country and particularly in Lagos, a teeming megacity of more than 20 million people with crumbling infrastructure and poor healthcare facilities.
The authorities in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city have appealed for volunteers because of a shortage of medical personnel, exacerbated by a month-long doctors’ strike.
A number of measures to tackle the spread of Ebola, which is passed on through direct contact with an infected person displaying symptoms, have already been announced.
Jonathan last week declared a national emergency in line with World Health Organization (WHO) advice to affected countries to trigger disaster response procedures.
Greater funding has been promised to set up additional isolation centres, border screenings and contact tracing, while Nigerians have been told to avoid large gatherings.
– ‘Crazy man’ –
In his address, Jonathan told faith leaders to help get the message across and also to pay close attention to traditional burial ceremonies, given that the Ebola virus is transmissible from dead bodies.
“We must advise our people not to over-celebrate burial now,” he said.
Jonathan said that Sawyer contracted Ebola because his sister died from the infection and he attended her funeral.
“(He) became a suspect. And the country (Liberia) asked him not to leave the country so that he will be observed but the crazy man decided to smuggle himself out and now we are suffering because of it,” he added.
Following strict professional health advice was now paramount, Jonathan said, adding: “If we manage it well we can get over it in two months and we will return to our normal lives.”
The WHO said on Friday there were 13 probable and suspect cases of Ebola, including two deaths, in Nigeria.
The global health body is discussing the possible use of an experimental treatment to try to stem the spread.
In Nigeria, health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu pleaded for Nigeria’s National Medical Association to call off its strike, with the union split between those who want to return to work to tackle the crisis and those intent on staying out.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) meanwhile said it had activated all its volunteers to get across preventative measures to the public, particularly seeking early medical advice and treatment.
Secretary-general Bello Hamman Diram said 18 volunteers were assisting in areas such as contact tracing, health promotion, case management and public information schemes.
Some 300 other volunteers will be deployed to help the federal and Lagos State governments in providing protective equipment as well as educational and hygiene materials.