The Lagos State Government, Tuesday, 26th August, 20 urged residents to avoid spreading rumours and false stories about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as such stories create unnecessary anxiety even as it announced the full recovery and discharge of seven confirmed cases of the disease in the state.
Briefing journalists on the status update of the disease at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said such rumours and false stories, especially in the social media, were also capable of undermining the efforts being made to contain and manage the outbreak.
The Commissioner, who said the briefing, has become necessary in order to douse “the inaccuracies bothering on distortion of facts and outright falsehood being spread in the social media” noted that contrary to the rumours and false information, the Rapid Response Team on the disease is working in accordance with global best practices.
He reiterated that five deaths have so far been recorded in Nigeria since the EVD incident adding that the seven recovered persons, who are currently being successfully reintegrated with their families and communities, is a confirmation that an infection by the disease does not mean an automatic death sentence.
The Commissioner said the common thread among the recovered cases was their early presentation for supportive treatment pointing out that, with this development, there is no need to hide friends and relations who are suspected to have come down with the disease. “The earlier they are brought for screening and surveillance, the better the outcome,” he said.
He emphasized that the process by which suspected, probable and confirmed cases as well as contacts are discharged is in line with best global practices adding that in line with approved processes and according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) international health regulations, confirmed cases are segregated from suspected or probable cases.
According to the Commissioner, “suspected cases are also segregated based on whether they are symptomatic or not. This, logically, is to prevent cross infection from a confirmed case to a probable or suspected case whose confirmatory test may turn out to be negative as has been witnessed severally in the past”.
Idris emphasized that a contact becomes infective only when symptoms appear “with fever being the game changer” adding that, by and large, only symptomatic contacts are admitted while asymptomatic contacts are only admitted when the index of suspicion that they may be lost to follow up is high.
He explained further that while contacts are monitored twice daily for temperature changes and symptoms, the homes of contacts coming for self admission or those evacuated for conduct of confirmatory tests, including areas of common use with other tenants or family members, their offices and relevant general surfaces, are decontaminated.
The Commissioner implored Lagosians not to stigmatize contacts who have been given a clean bill of health urging them to assist in facilitating the re-integration of such contacts into the society. He cited the example of the American doctor who was discharged by Emory Hospital in the United States after being treated of EVD pointing out that he was openly embraced by both the hospital staff and family members.
He also appealed to medical practitioners in both public and private health facilities not to reject febrile patients without proper assessment pointing out that such rejection may not only increase stigmatization but also deter self-reporting. “Not everybody with a fever or haemorrhage has come down with EVD”, he said.
The Commissioner said a situation where such cases are automatically referred to Mainland General Hospital is not good practice and appealed to the doctors to commence management of such cases using universal safety precautions and only resort to referral to Mainland General Hospital if there is indication to do so.
He said contrary to the rumours and false information in the social media, the Rapid Response Team on the virus has continued to function through the working groups which include the Contact Tracing, Epidemiology and Laboratory, Health Promotion and Social Mobilization, Case Management and Infection Prevention/ Control, Point of Entry and Data Management adding that regular meetings are being facilitated by the Team to develop strategic action plan in line with best practices.
Government, the Commissioner said, is not unaware of both the health and economic issues related to the containment of the EVD adding, however, that efforts are currently directed towards the human aspect to contain its spread and that there are plans to address the economic issues in the foreseeable future.
Highlighting the mode of transmission of the disease, Idris declared, “Once a person is infected with Ebola, the disease is transmissible through direct contact with broken skin, mucous membranes and secretion of an infected person”, adding that human to human transmission is only achieved through physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill with fever being a key sign.
“This call is reiterated for vigilance as human to human transmission is only achieved through physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from Ebola Virus Disease through body fluids such as blood, urine, stool, saliva, breast milk and semen. Burial ceremonies where mourners including family members have direct contact with patients who died of Ebola have also played a role in the spread”, he said.
The Commissioner was supported at the briefing by his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba; Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Mr. Hakeem Bello; and other top officials of the Health Ministry.