Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Friday, 8th August, 2014 paid an early morning inspection visit to the isolation ward prepared by the state government for patients with symptoms of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), saying the facility is now set up and ready for use.
The Governor who spoke in an interview with journalists after inspecting some of the facilities at the ward alongside the state Commissioners for Health, Dr Jide Idris; Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed; and Special Adviser on Public Health, Dr Yewande Adeshina; added that he was also there to see the environment in which the health workers handling the situation were working and the level of preparation that they have and their level of protection.
According to the Governor, part of what informed his visiting the centre was because the state has a health challenge on its hands and the administration was concerned about the people in terms of their well being and for the people who have taken leadership to help in containing it.
The Governor who interacted with some of the health workers met on ground expressed appreciation for the work they are doing.
Governor Fashola who also expressed delight at the report that members of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) have called off their industrial action expressed the optimism that the members would come and sign up in the battle against the disease.
He emphasized that the Ebola Virus Disease as devastating as its consequences can be is not an automatic death sentence explaining that the consequences of death would depend on what is done and what is not done.
He stressed that there are already reported cases of patients who are recovering in other parts of West Africa and that the issue is about being able to respond to it appropriately and taking precaution.
“We are also taking precaution and that is also why we did not go into where the patients are because there is a very strict protocol for going there, so if you are going there, you must wear a fully protected gown. In the place where we are expanding to ensure that we are able to cope with anything that comes, you would see the shower there; people have to go through a protocol, one way in, one way out. That is why you cannot go into where patients are now unless you are fully protected appropriately and unless you walk through the mandated process for going in and for coming out.
“Those who are detoxifying and decontaminating they don’t go in. They are waiting outside and those who go in do so under a very rigorous protocol set up with advise from the centre for disease control and then people who are not critically ill and stuffs, where they go and how we are going to be disposing off their refuse and their waste have been worked out. Provisions have already been made there so that we can separate very critically ill people from people who are just showing symptoms but who need to be in isolation,” the Governor said.
Fashola said provisions have already been made so that there can be a separation of very critically ill people from people who are just showing symptoms but who need to be in isolation, adding that it is a very methodical process.
“Provisions have already been made so that we can separate very critically ill people from people who are just showing symptoms but who need to be in isolation but it is a very methodical process and as I said it is not an automatic death sentence”, he said.
Responding to a journalist’s question on what risks were involved, the Governor said the first defence against the virus is to prevent it from spreading; adding that once that is done, then the health authorities are on the way towards coming out of it.
“From what I hear following a long discussion I heard with the leadership of the Centre for Disease Control in Washington yesterday, I was speaking with them comparing what they were doing with what they expected us to be doing. Their personnel are here for clarity working and helping in training people”, the Governor explained.
He stated that when compared to other epidemics that Nigeria has experienced such as H1NI, which she has overcome and even Cholera which is an epidemic that has killed more people than Ebola which has killed about 3,000 people since it was discovered over 40 years ago, the reassuring thing is that Ebola is not airborne and cannot be picked until one touches somebody or touch fluid from somebody who has it.
Against this background, the Governor said it is important that those who contacted or who suspect that they have contacted it or they have had contact with somebody who contacted it, do not make any further contact with any member of their family.
“Now from what the Centre for Disease Control told me yesterday there is no known cure but if it is known and diagnosed early, patients can make full recovery because here you can give them very intense medical care which involves managing their waste, managing their body fluids, giving them antibiotics and fluids to rehydrate their body and to ensure that their immune system is able to find a standing chance to combat and make full recovery as we have seen in some parts of Liberia and Sierra Leone”, he maintained.
He said the next step is for people to continue to increase their hand washing and personal hygiene habits and to quickly report any suspected case, saying it is first about containment, so that people who feel that they have it should not make physical contact with anybody but should call for medical and specialized help.
“Secondly, if such people get to the hospital early and treated, the disease could be contained, adding that the risk in not doing that could be far reaching and for that we must be thankful that the hospital acted professionally and reported that case”.
“The downsides of not doing that is that we would have pretended that there was nothing going on and we would have just seen people dropping dead suddenly and you would not be able to monitor how many people they have even contacted because they did that and we are able now to keep a record of who and who was at that hospital and who and who made contact at the airport and who and who made contact and so on and so forth. That has helped and it is a very big boost and I could not thank that hospital management enough”, he added.
He explained that the risks potentially in hiding and pretending that nothing is wrong has grave multiplier effects. “One case and one contact has led to seven infections so there is a total of seven, so one multiplied by six times and do the multiplication, if six multiplies by six, that gives you 36 and if you multiply 36 by 6, that gives you a thousand plus, if you multiply a 1000 plus by six that gives you like 7000 plus, so we must not let that happen.
“In all the places where it has happened in West Africa, what I am told is that they are largely rural and isolated settings. This is an urban setting, so in five minutes, look at all the people here so we cannot let that happen, so we must quickly report so we must quickly isolate, so it is not an automatic death sentence.
“Whether we like it or not, we must combat it now, we must combat either seven or those we are suspecting that we know or take the unfortunate risk of looking for a thousand or more people. That must not happen”, the Governor stressed.
He reiterated his appeal to Lagosians and Nigerians that if they suspect anybody showing symptoms they should let the person report in the hospital in Yaba which is the Infectious Diseases Centre.
Fashola also used the opportunity to appeal to private hospitals to develop a first line of defence now such that if patients are turned in sick, the hospitals must assume and begin to take protection right from entry.
“They must isolate because we cannot do this alone. People are going to go to them sometimes before they are referred to us, so they must take the same precaution and defence and create isolation wards in their hospitals now for people they suspect might have the disease. Monitor, if they are all cleared, discharge and if they are not cleared, let us know immediately so that we can either come and pick or you move to us”, Governor Fashola added.