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Ebola: ECOWAS suspends meetings

The Economic Community of West Africa States has suspended all its meetings as a result of the Ebola virus spread to Nigeria.This came a day…

The Economic Community of West Africa States has suspended all its meetings as a result of the Ebola virus spread to Nigeria.
This came a day after the first Nigerian Ebola death was announced. Five more Nigerian medics have already tested positive to the virus, which has killed more than 900 people in three other West African countries.
ECOWAS Commission Vice President Dr Toga G. Mcintosh announced the decision to call off all meetings of the commission in Abuja yesterday, to avoid the spread of Ebola.
He said also the commission’s Lagos office has been temporarily shut while its staffers have been put under surveillance and observation because of their contact with Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in Lagos late last month.
All the Nigerians who have tested positive to the virus are among those who had direct contact with Mr. Sawyer. At least 70 people, including air crew and immigrations officials, have been quarantined in Lagos because of their contact with the late Liberian man.
Dr Mcintosh spoke during a meeting that Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu held with members of the diplomatic community, to discuss Nigeria’s efforts of containing the Ebola virus.
“The commission is saddened that the virus is spreading in the community and further actions will be taken to ensure Ebola-free ECOWAS,” the vice chairman said.
“Our officials in Lagos who received Mr. Sawyer are under careful observation, Lagos office has been fumigated and shut down temporarily just as we suspended all our meetings for now.”
He urged member states and international donors to contribute to the Ebola fund raised by the commission.
Health Minister Chukwu had earlier said the whole world is in danger because of the way Ebola spreads.
“Indeed we have an emergency at hand, that to us could be a national emergency, but to me, it is a global emergency. We are in danger; all of us are in danger,” he said.
Chukwu said the current Ebola outbreak started March 24, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and that it has so far infected about 1,700 with over 900 deaths recorded.
“On the 22nd of July, a game changing event happened, something more than a red alert. Mr. Patrick Sawyer came into Nigeria from Monrovia to Lome and from Lome to Lagos. He tested positive only two hours after he arrived Lagos,” the minister said.
“It would have happened in America if the incubation period had delayed because he was scheduled to go back to the US that same day. He could also have survived it because the disease does not have 100 per cent fatality rate.”
He said the government has installed infrared thermal detectors at the four major gateways into the country, while mounting serious checks at all the 70 land borders.
Chukwu said Nigerian borders will only be closed when it becomes extremely important to do so.
Chukwu also condemned the wearing of hand gloves by some Nigerians saying that it will only serve as a barn for Ebola virus. “When you put on gloves, you are collecting the disease from others and spreading it to others,” he said.
On this year’s pilgrimage, he said they are going to work with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the National Christian Pilgrims Commission to ensure that all pilgrims are screened before leaving Nigeria.
Speaking at the meeting, WHO country representative, who was represented by Dr. Rex Mpazanje, said the organisation encouraged the screening of all out-bound travellers to avoid exporting the Ebola virus.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has called a meeting with the commissioners of health of the 36 states over the Ebola outbreak. It is scheduled to hold in Abuja on Monday.
Minister of State for Health Dr Khaliru Hassan told Daily Trust by telephone that the meeting was necessary to intimate the states on the measures to take to prevent further spread of Ebola.
The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) has also called for a one-day sensitisation meeting with chief executive officers of state primary health care agencies, as well as board and zonal coordinators.
Hassan said the agenda will be on how to prevent spread of Ebola to more states.

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