Nigeria has confirmed its first Ebola death outside Lagos – a doctor in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the doctor had died on August 22, but the results of the tests have only just been made public.
The medical doctor had treated a staff of the ECOWAS office in Lagos, placed under surveillance in the state but escaped to the oil-rich city.
A further 70 people are under surveillance in the city, while his wife, who has taken ill, has been put under quarantine.
The Minister explained that the ECOWAS staff was a primary contact of the index case, the Late Patrick Sawyer, and that even though he does not presently have EVD, a further laboratory tests indicated that he had suffered the deadly disease.
He said the ECOWAS staff, actually evaded the surveillance team in the last week of July and travelled out to Port Harcourt.
He said it was at the oil-rich city that the man consulted a doctor and was apparently treated for some symptoms.
The Minister added that the ECOWAS staff returned to Lagos after four days.
He said that a test was conducted on him showed that he was negative and that no symptoms of EVD was found in him but that he had developed antibodies which indicated that he had had the disease but had been healed.
Chukwu said, “This case would have been of no further interest since he had completed the 21 days of surveillance without any other issue, but for the fact that the doctor who treated him died last Friday, 22nd August, 2014.
“Following the report of this death by the doctor’s widow the next day, the case had been thoroughly investigated and laboratory analysis showed that this doctor died from EVD.
“As a result, several contacts have now been traced, registered and placed under surveillance. However, because the widow is now symptomatic, she has been quarantined pending the outcome of laboratory tests on her.”
The minister added that the Incident Management Committee had already deployed a very strong team to Port Harcourt to work with the health authorities of Rivers State.
West Africa’s health ministers are meeting later to discuss how to tackle the world’s most deadly Ebola outbreak. More than 1,550 people have died, with more than 3,000 confirmed cases – mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 240 health workers have been infected with Ebola – a rate which the World Health Organisation said was “unprecedented”. It noted that in many cases protective suits, even rubber gloves and face masks, were not available. The doctor becomes the sixth fatality in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country. On Wednesday, Nigeria announced that schools would not reopen after holidays until 13 October in order to try and contain the disease.