As the Lagos State Government commenced an intensive search for 27 secondary contacts, who might have had contacts with doctors, nurses and health workers, who attended to the late Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, at a Lagos private hospital, Britain has also engaged US and WHO in a plea to make the trial vaccine available to West African countries.
Three of Britain’s leading Ebola specialists have said experimental treatments for the deadly Ebola virus must be offered to the people of West Africa, after two US aid workers were administered with the “cure” in Liberia.
The two missionaries, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, are alive and now being cared for at a specialist isolation unit in Atlanta.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos on Wednesday, said the government was also planning a life insurance cover for doctors and other health professionals, who volunteered to work with experts monitoring and testing suspected cases of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Though the pair remain weak – and there is no way of knowing at this stage how much of a help the new drug has actually been – the fact that it was given to the two Americans has resulted in widespread criticism and recriminations in West Africa.
Now Peter Piot, who discovered Ebola in 1976, David Heymann, the director of the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security and Jeremy Farrar from the Wellcome Trust have said there are in fact several drugs and vaccines under study that could be used to combat the disease.
“African governments should be allowed to make informed decisions about whether or not to use these products – for example to protect and treat health care workers who run especially high risks of infection,” they wrote in a joint statement.
While the negotiation is still on, a professor of Epidemiology and Community Health Science, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Tanimola Akande, has described the Ebola virus, which is ravaging Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and has killed a nurse in Nigeria, as the biggest health challenge facing the sub region at present.
Akande says that its mode of transmission is a major reason why it is deadlier than most viruses.
He says, “That Ebola has no cure is not the reason why it is deadly.HIV also has no cure, yet it does not kill all its victims, if it is properly managed. Ebola is deadlier because it is easy to contract; it is in all the body fluids of an infected individual as its infection can be through saliva, blood, sweat, sperm, excreta, body tissue. It can also be contracted by touching the surface an infected person has touched.”
“Also, the natural host for Ebola is fruit bats, chimpanzees and other forest animals that many eat daily in different parts of the country. You can get it just by coming in contact with the blood of an infected animal. Any virus that can be contracted through food has the potential to wipe off many lives.”
The physician, who says that Ebola virus, has very tricky symptoms, which often mimic that of common illness, such as malaria, dengue, lassa and typhoid fever, notes that many health workers may have already come in contact with an infected patient without knowing it.
He adds, “When a patient comes to your hospital and presents you with symptoms, such as fever, headache, general body pain, you are likely not to wear gloves or biohazards suits before treating the patient. That is the tricky part. You are infected before you know it is Ebola.”
To contain the transmission of the disease, Akande urges Nigerians to stop eating bush meat, as well as to wash their hands and fruits regularly before eating.