EBOLA: WORLD’S HOPE ON US, UK TRIAL VACCINES, SAY MEDICAL EXPERT

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A Consultant Public Health Physician at the Ondo State Specialist Hospital, Akure, Dr. Stephen Fagbemi, on Thursday last week, said the United State of America and the United Kingdom are working on curable vaccines for Ebola, saying that the drugs being used to combat the life-threatening disease are mere experimental drugs.

Dr. Fagbemi dropped the hint at a one-day public sensitization programme organized by Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba- Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria, for the University community and its environs on the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, EVD.

Dr. Fagbemi, who spoke on Public Health Significance of Ebola Virus Disease: Lessons to Learn by a University Community, said, “There is no standard treatment for Ebola yet, but only supportive treatment. There is supportive care if patients come quickly to hospital. Our hope and prayer is on the two vaccines that are currently on trial in UK and USA. And the Zmapp is just an experimental drug being used now as a trial drug in a few cases.”

Giving the up-to-date breakdown of the outbreak of the deadly disease, the medical expert said, “EVD outbreaks occur primarily in Central and East Africa. It started in Guinea but now had spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. In December 2013, the first Ebola virus outbreak registered in the region occurred in Guinea.”

The Medical Expert noted that the World Health Organization had projected 20,000 cases of EVD worldwide over the next nine months.

“As at August 28, 2014, suspected and confirmed cases were 3,069, suspected case deaths were 1,552; laboratory confirmed cases were 1,752. But as at yesterday (Wednesday last week), suspected death had gone up to 1,900, out of which 40 per cent died in the last four weeks.”

The EVD, which came to into Nigeria through a Liberian, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, has recorded 18 suspected and confirmed cases, eight suspected and confirmed case deaths, 13 laboratory confirmed cases and five discharges.

He explained that the primary hosts of EVD are fruit bats, while other carriers of the disease include monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, antelopes.

Dr. Fagbemi noted, “Transmission into humans first occurred from contact with infected animals. Ebola is then transmitted through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals – dead body, raw meat.

“Human-to-human transmission occurs through contact with broken skin or mucous membranes, blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people. Indirect transmission occurs through contact with environments contaminated with such fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles and other sharp object.

“Transmissions can also occur through burial ceremonies (contact with the body of the deceased person); and men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from illness.”

Dousing the palpable fear of contracting EVD, Dr. Fagbemi explained that the disease cannot be contracted through smokes, air, water (swimming), money or food.

He added, “The incubation period is from 2-21 days; and throughout this period, one cannot be infected until the individual starts showing the symptoms. It’s only spread when people are sick.”

The Medical Expert listed the symptoms to include fever, severe headache, weakness, muscle aches and as it progresses, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, external bleeding, extremely high body temperature and prostration.

He also highlighted the complications to include multiple organ failure, severe bleeding, jaundice, delirium, seizures, comas and shock, while mortality rate for the most lethal form of Ebola is as high as 90 per cent.

The Guest Lecturer, urged the health-care workers “to apply the standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. Health-care workers have frequently being infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EVD.”

On the prevention of the deadly disease, Dr. Fagbemi canvassed more awareness programmes, including posters, handbills, high index of suspicion, hand washing with soap and water, reduction in contact with high-risk infected animals, and avoiding eating bush meat for now.

He counseled against use of common napkins or hand towels, urging Nigerians to use tissue papers (toilet roll).

He added, “Avoid overcrowding, large gatherings, rallies, crusades, among others. Provision of water and soap in strategic areas around campus, outside large lecture rooms, regular cleaning and disinfection of toilets are sacrosanct!\”

He enumerated other precaution measures to include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (hand gloves, etc.), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.

Dr. Fagbemi asked the audience to call 08033EBOLAHELP in the event of any suspected case of Ebola.

He advised authorities of higher institutions in Nigeria to, as a matter of urgency, set up Ebola Response Committee comprising teaching and non-teaching staff, health personnel and students, whose mandates should include developing response strategies, implementing response strategies, monitoring and evaluating constant vigilance, monitoring news updates and alerts, monitoring trends and development on campus as well as neighbouring host communities, and advising the leadership of the Institutions.