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Nigeria’s Goal to Contain Ebola within Sawyer’s Contacts Wins UN Praise

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Eddy Odivwri

But for the ill-conceived visit of Patrick Sawyer, the American-Liberian who brought the killer Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to Nigeria on July 20, the country may have been spared the scourge being unleashed on its citizenry.

Picture of Lagos nurse who treated Liberian Sawyer dies of Ebola, seven isolated

Sawyer, who knew he had the deadly infection, flew into Lagos on July 20 purporting to attend an ECOWAS conference in Calabar. But his widow, Mrs Decontee Sawyer, says Patrick came to Nigeria in search of a better healthcare services.

According to her, “Patrick went to Nigeria for help so that he can get properly diagnosed, and not misdiagnosed as was the case in Liberia. And if it came back that he did have Ebola, he trusted the Nigerian healthcare system a lot more than he trusted the Liberian’s. His action, as it was, was a desperate plea for help. Patrick didn’t want to die, and he thought his life would be saved in Nigeria.”

Tragically, his search for life in Nigeria deposited a plague that is snuffing life from Nigerians.
He died four days after he was admitted at the First Consultants Medical Centre in Lagos, wherein he denied having contact with Ebola-infected persons. Whereas, his sister, Princess had died from the infection back in Liberia, and he most likely got infected, having participated in her burial. His reckless attitude at the hospital after his infection was confirmed, indicated that he was determined to infect as many as he could.

Sadly, all 10 persons who had direct contact with Sawyer have all tested positive to the disease. They have all been quarantined in an isolation ward at a Yaba hospital in Lagos. Of the number, four have died, while six are yet alive.
It is however instructive that as wild as the spread of the disease seems, the Nigerian authorities have striven to ensure a containment by ensuring that the infection does not spread beyond the 10 primary contacts with the index case: Patrick Sawyer.

Unfortunately, however, the 10 primary contacts had contact with some other members of the public, including family members. Thus almost 200 secondary contacts have all been put under surveillance in Lagos and Enugu.
Nonetheless, it is remarkable to note that none of the secondary contact persons, who are under surveillance has so far tested positive to the deadly virus.

What that indicates is that as long as the Nigerian medical authorities are able to rein-in all primary and secondary contacts and shield them from other members of the public as well as closely monitor them, the spread of the infection would have been greatly limited. And that will offer a reprieve, in a way.

It was as a result of the determination of the authorities to ensure that the spread of the disease is contained and quickly tamed, that the young female nurse who had primary contact with Sawyer at First Consultants, but travelled to Enugu to see her husband, was forced back to Lagos along with her husband, especially as she had tested positive to the virus.

Already, some 21 persons who came in contact with the nurse in Enugu were earlier placed under surveillance. However, 15 of them have been cleared of any infection while six remain under surveillance, after they had undergone extensive appraisal from medical experts.

Besides the effort at tracking and setting apart all confirmed or suspected victims of the infection, the government has placed all immigration on land and air borders on red alert. Already, flights to and from Ebola-infected countries have been suspended, just as passengers to and from even other countries are subjected to infrared thermo-scans to ensure that no infected persons leaves or escapes into the country.

Surely, the Nigerian authorities have responded firmly and comprehensively to the affliction, drawing the commendation of the United Nations. The best Nigerians can do at this stage is to pray that they remain unrelenting in their quest to curb the spread of the virus.

This will certainly be boosted if no further deaths are recorded, the chain is not broken by another primary contact who elects to travel or a secondary contact tests positive for Ebola.

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