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Ebola: FG warns Cuba, others against stigmatising Nigerians

The Federal Government on Monday called on countries which have been
stigmatising and profiling Nigerians because of Ebola to stop doing so
forthwith, saying it is not in line with global best practices.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, stated this during a
World Press Conference on Monday in Abuja while giving an update on EVD
50 days since it was “imported into Nigeria through Lagos and 38 days
since it was introduced into Port Harcourt”.

At the event, he also revealed that a fiancé of one of Patrick Sawyer’s
contacts, has been confirmed positive for EVD but has however since
recovered from the illness.

Also speaking, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, called on
Nigerians to contact their foreign missions whenever they were
stigmatised over EVD.

He said, “There is absolutely no basis for this stigmatisation, because
of the records we have set in dealing with Ebola so far.

“We also want to plead that we should avoid sensationalism when
reporting; this is where the stigmatisation starts. When people begin to
read such reports and rumours, it reinforces stigmatisation.

“A lot of the stigma we suffer come from the way we report issues about
Nigeria. The only confirmation of EVD should come from the Health
Minister and not the State Commissioners of Health.”

Chukwu also debunked rumours that there were Ebola cases in Kebbi,
Kaduna, Oyo, Ebonyi, Delta and Sokoto states as well as the Federal
Capital Territory saying they “have been investigated and all the cases
have turned out to be negative for Ebola.”

While reacting to the reported placing of Nigerian travelers including a
journalist on quarantine by the government of Cuba, the Health Minister
described the action of the countries as surprising.

He said, “The only case from Cuba concerns a journalist working with a
Newspaper which was very surprising. But as a responsible Ministry, we
have already written formally to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help
us investigate the case.

“We treat individual cases that way but when it comes to what we do
generally, I think it is education we are giving. That is how it is done
in civilized countries. We continue to appeal to countries and
individuals not to profile or stigmatise anyone on account of EVD.

“In particular, we have observed that some countries have continued to
selectively quarantine Nigerian travelers without any health or
scientific basis. For the record, let me say clearly that while any
individual from any country of the world, including Nigeria, could be a
carrier of the EVD and transmit same to others, no single Nigerian as of
now has introduced EVD to any country. Nigeria shall continue to support
protocols approved by the WHO which do not support the closure of
borders, do not restrict travel, and do not stigmatise anyone on the
basis of the passport that one carries.”

He added: “We treat people for Lassa fever and they go back home. The
two infections belong to the same group. If anything, it is more serious
than EVD. We are again appealing to countries and individuals not to
profile or stigmatise anyone on account of EVD.

“The Federal Government shall continue to remain vigilant and strengthen
screening at our ports of entry and exit. As long as there is a single
case of EVD anywhere in the world, every nation, every individual
remains at risk and Nigeria and Nigerians are not exempted.”

Giving an update of EVD in Nigeria, Chukwu said, “So far, all the cases
that have been confirmed in Nigeria are traceable to the index case, the
Liberian-American, Mr. Patrick Sawyer. As of this morning, the total
number of confirmed cases of EVD in Nigeria is 19; 15 in Lagos and four
in Port Harcourt.

“The 19th case is the fiancé of one of the primary contacts of Sawyer
who died of the disease. The test results were equivocal but further
tests established the disease. He had only mild symptoms and he has
since recovered from the illness. He was quarantined but because of the
equivocal test result he was not placed on active treatment.

“The total number of deaths from EVD in Nigeria stands at seven. Five of
this died in Lagos, one in a private hospital, the index case, Sawyer,
and the other four are in the isolation ward in Lagos State. Two of the
seven died in Port Harcourt, the medical doctor who died in a private
hospital and the contact, a patient in the hospital at the time the
doctor was also on admission, who died in the isolation ward in Rivers

According to him, the total number of patients who have been
successfully managed and discharged stands at nine, adding that the
latest is the sister of the Port Harcourt doctor who was discharged from
the isolation ward in Rivers State on Sunday.

Chukwu said, “It should be noted that the nine patients successfully
managed and discharged are among the total number of 11 survivors of EVD
in Nigeria. At the moment only one person, the wife of the Port Harcourt
doctor is on treatment in the isolation ward in Lagos. She no longer has
any symptoms and is undergoing series of tests preparatory to her
discharge from the isolation ward this week.

“Regarding contacts currently under surveillance, Lagos has 27 contacts
as of now. A total of 339 contacts who were previously on surveillance
have been discharged having completed 21 days of observation. Port
Harcourt has 477 contacts under surveillance. It is a mixed group
consisting of tertiary and quaternary contacts of Sawyer’s. Five
contacts have already been discharged from surveillance in Port Harcourt
having completed 21 days of observation.”

He added: “All the Nurses in Lagos have insurance cover. We trained them
before touching any patient, training is very difficult because we keep
ensuring that we get it right because 99 per cent is not good enough, we
have to score 100 per cent. In any case, it is surprising that somebody
wants to go on strike when everybody has been discharged. I am not aware
of any caregiver not being paid; they are getting their salaries and
they are being given incentives to encourage them.”

Speaking on efforts being put in place to check further spread of the
disease as schools plan to reopen, Chukwu said, “we have contained the
situation; Ebola is no longer in the streets anywhere in Nigeria.

“We are working with the Federal Ministry of Education, we made it clear
that in institutions having students returning from outside Nigeria,
they should let us know. We will work with them and we have
questionnaires which we are already using on our airlines, ships coming
into Nigeria and other means of transportation, including buses. They
will fill it and use it as our first line of screening. We will ask
questions and conduct tests to see that they don’t have fever.”

Source: Ebola: FG warns Cuba, others against stigmatising Nigerians –

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