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Ebola Outbreak: Elderly Woman Tests Positive

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One of the three persons taken to the Ebola virus quarantine centre in Oduoha, Emohua local government area of Rivers State, has tested positive for the disease.

The latest case is that of an elderly woman who contracted the virus in Good Heart Hospital, the health facility where Doctor Ikechukwu Enemuo, the doctor who treated a Nigerian ECOWAS diplomat, Koye Olu-Ibukun, died last week.

The two others - a doctor and a pharmacist - tested negative. Even though they had been released from the center, another round of tests will be carried out to reconfirm their status.

Meanwhile the status of the host of the deadly virus - the diplomat - who can be said to have carried it into Rivers State, remains negative and clear of the Ebola virus.

The doctor and the pharmacist are members of staff of Sam Steel Clinic, a health facility founded by Enemuo.

The body of the late doctor as well as other bodies that might pose a risk, will be buried this week under the supervision of officials of the Health Ministry and WHO.

This was announced by the Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, and the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker in Abuja and Port Harcourt on Monday.

At the opening of the second National Council on Health meeting, Prof Chukwu also said that the Federal Government had indicated interest to participate in the clinical trials of to Japanese vaccines to combat the disease. He also said the Federal Government had applied for other experimental drugs, such as TKM-Ebola.

The minister dispelled rumors of an outbreak of the disease in the Federal Capital Territory. He said that investigations had revealed the person involved was a sickle cell patient.

He said "The Treatment Research Group which I had informed you about, has been working hard to identify experimental drugs like ZMapp, and also make recommendations to government on further research on theses drugs as well as vaccines for EVD treatment and isolation.

Following the TRG's recommendations and in consultation with NAFDAC and NHREC, Nigeria has indicated interest to participaate in the clinical trials for two candidate EVD vaccines and we are considering that a third may be added to the list. We have also applied for experimental drugs such as TKM-Ebola.

The TRG has submitted a detailed profile and brief on the oral antiviral agent which the Japanese government has offered to make available to affected countries through the World Health Organisation. We are now considering the profile and brief to enable us reach a final decision on making it available to our patients.

Our initial knowledge of the agent is that it has been shown to have strong antiviral activity against the influenza virus following phases I and II human trials: it is now going going through phase III clinical trials. It is shown to have strong antiviral property against Ebola virus in vitro and in vivo. These and the fact that it is considered safe, having passed through phases I and II clinical trials, makes it good candidate drug for use in emergency situation as the EVD."

Prof Chukwu also gave an update of the EVD since its outbreak in the country, adding that government's performance in sustaining the spread of the disease had been lauded by all stakeholders. According to him, as at August 31, 2014, the total number of cases of EVD in Nigeria stood at 17 while the total number of cases treated at the isolation ward in Lagos State is 14. Also, the total number of those discharged is 7, while the total number of deaths among the people treated in Lagos is 5. The current number under treatment in Lagos is 2.

The minister said the three confirmed cases not treated in Lagos comprised Olu-Ibukun, Enemuo, and the elderly woman in Port Harcourt. He said that "Two others who came into contact with the late Enemuo have tested negative for the EVD but the laboratory tests will be repeated to reconfirm their status".

"Now as of August 31, 2014, the number of contacts under surveillance in Lagos stood at 72 while in Port Harcourt, the total number of contacts under surveillance stood at 199. There is nobody under surveillance in Enugu presently and no presently and no case of EVD in Enugu State.

Now as of August 31, 2014, 278 contacts in Lagos State had completed the 21 days surveillance and had been discharged. While in Enugu, all the six identified contacts have completed the 21 day observation period and have been discharged from surveillance. No contact in Port Harcourt has completed the 21 day observation period and have been discharged from surveillance. No contact in Port Harcourt has completed the 21 day observation period."

In Port Harcourt, Parker also confirmed that an elderly woman who shared the same room with Enemuo when he was admitted at the Good Heart Hospital, tested positive for the EVD.

The commissioner said on Monday that Chinyere, the sister to the late Enemuo, who initially fled to Abia had returned to Port Harcourt and had been taken to the isolation center in Emohua.

He added, "I told you on Sunday that we had three patients, and out of the three, the result came out, two of them were negative while one was positive. The two negative ones have left the centre. We discharged them but we will repeat the tests because they are still within the 21 days cycle of the virus. We pray that they remain negative. The one who is positive is an elderly woman that was in the same hospital with the late Enemuo. In fact, they were in the same room. She is there (the quarantine centre) now." Concerning Chinyere, he said, "She had earlier run to Abia State apparently because of fear of being stigmatized. We were able to trace her with the help of my counterpart in Abia State. She developed feverish symptoms and she had been admitted at the isolation unit for observation and treatment. She is among the 50 high risk contacts on our list. e decided to take her to the isolation unit to make assurance surer... We chose to isolate her because we don't want to go through the same experience we had with Olu-Ibukun.

Parker however applauded Chinyere's courage to come out from hiding and added that the major challenge of the state government was that some of the primary and secondary contacts were hiding.

The Commissioner said, "We have decided that within this week, Dr. Enemuo and other high risk corpses in the UPTH mortuary would be buried, according to the World Health Organisation protocols.

That means that the corpses will not leave Port Harcourt. They will be buried under the supervision of the EOC, Ministry of Health officials, and officials of WHO so that we don't expose the relatives to danger. We will take care of all the safety protocols ourselves. The families will be there but we will not allow them touch the corpses. The families can hold their parties if they choose to, but they will not be allowed to come close to the bodies. We will take maximum precaution to combat the spread of the virus".

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Godwin Ibe

Medical Doctor (GP), IT professional, Web Designer, CELTA Certified Teacher of English, Economist and International Trade Marketer.

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