Via Vanguard, Professor Chukwu talks at length about what's going on: Bitter Kola and Ebola: What Nigerians must know. The bitter kola is a minor matter at the end of the interview. Excerpt:
What is the status of Nigeria regarding Ebola and its possible spread?
You will recall that I informed the nation that altogether we had placed 70 primary contacts of the index case – that is the imported case – under active surveillance.
What we do is that once you begin to show any symptom, no matter how mild, we quarantine you. We now have eight persons under quarantine in Lagos.
So, what happened is that based on our report, last week, two of the health workers who came in contact (with the Liberian) were tested for Ebola virus disease and they came out negative. But in the case of the nurse, it has turned out positive and that’s why we say we’ve been able to confirm a first Nigerian with the disease based on contact.
Also, some other health workers who are suspected of having symptoms, their results have not been made available because they are not ready yet. We are maintaining that surveillance and, in terms of what we are doing, focus is on the secondary contacts and then the third degree contacts.
There was a meeting of health ministers in the West African sub-region in Ghana once the outbreak was noticed in Guinea. What was the outcome of that meeting regarding possible prevention?
Nigeria participated and one of the outcomes of that meeting was the establishment of a coordinating mechanism in West African countries and some Central African countries on how to share common strategies and common best practices and the sharing of information as we move on.
Let me say that what has happened is unfortunate because this man, who was the index case, was warned by his own country not to travel but how he managed to travel and not disclosing full information to those who asked him remains a mystery. Even while on the hospital bed, he was still denying. It is just unfortunate that he brought the disease into Nigeria and this tells you that every country of the world is at risk.
As the problem goes on we would constantly review out strategies and even the World Health Organisation, WHO, is holding a summit in Geneva, Switzerland, to review all the strategies in place and to see if there is need for a review.
In-country here in Nigeria, we are working as a team, all hands are on deck – the Federal Government, Lagos State government and other state governments, WHO, the American CDC – we’re working as a team and we’ll continue to review the strategy in place.
But what is important is that whatever we do, it should enhance the prevention of the disease and it shouldn’t be counter-productive!
What is the focus of the strategy because there seems to be too much focus on air travel, whereas our land borders are there and they are porous?
The first one is communication beyond just providing information. We need to communicate effectively. The federal and state governments are doing that. The president has inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee for communication strategy. Eight ministers that are relevant are serving on that committee and they have a mandate to co-opt any other minister that they feel is needed.
Based on that, we are working with the Minister of Information and the Minister of Communication Technology, we are working with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister of Interior, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Aviation, Minister of Science and Technology. Since March, we’ve had our jingles and adverts on television and even the private broadcast stations are now on board and are ready to sponsor these free of charge. The website is www.ebolaalert.org and information is there; you can make suggestions and make complaints – it is interactive. There are also telephone numbers you can reach the centres on.
Our toll-free helpline is 0800eboolahelp. We have a Facebook page; we’ve opened accounts on Twitter and we have dedicated emails; but the Information Ministry is helping with grassroots communication since the ministry has the structure on ground. The faith-based establishments too will be useful in this regard. We want to be as open as necessary and possible.