Governor of Lagos state, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, believes his government is effectively in control of the highly contagious Ebola virus introduced to Nigeria on July 20 by Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer.
Addressing residents of the state on Sunday, he said that although Lagos is the first urban centre to record the case of Ebola, it will overcome the virus.
Fashola admitted that that Ebola poses a big threat, but he expressed optimism that the virus will be contained, commending the federal government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their support.
The governor appealed for cooperation, denying rumour making rounds that the state lacks the necessary resources to checkmate the spread of the disease.
“As you must now be aware, we are facing perhaps our biggest challenge to public health and the safety of human lives at this moment with the discovery of the Ebola virus in our state,” he said.
“This poses a threat to the primary purpose of our government, which is to save lives. This address has become necessary to respond to a series of text messages, e-mails and telephone calls that I have received in order to reiterate some of what you may already know, to share information about what you may not know, and to keep everybody safe.
“I will like to say that this is the first time that the virus has infected people in an urban centre. It is a steep learning curve for everybody, but it presents a huge opportunity for us as a people to show the world how to overcome it.”
He assured the people that his government is on top of the situation, urging them not to panic because critical steps to prevent the situation from degenerating were already afoot.
“We have followed all the contacts that we know who have had primary and secondary contacts with the patient who imported the virus into our state, or with people who had contact with him.
“Because we had to react to an unexpected situation, we had to react in a proper and methodical way, according to acceptable global health standards.
“I can now tell you that in the last one week, with the help and advice of our technical partners, such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and the Medecins Sans Frontiers, who have tracked this virus and studied it for decades, our response is a lot better than when the news first broke; and our capacity is increasing daily.
“Although we have suffered very painful losses of lives, I think it is fair to say that we are not yet at an epidemic stage and we are determined to do everything not to get to that stage; because of the grave consequences to the safety of human lives.
“We have provided information to the public on all state-owned media, while the private media have commendably joined in this effort. There is also information available on the social media platform.”
He expressed delight that one of the medical personnel afflicted by the virus has fully recovered and has been discharged from the isolation ward. He expressed assurance that the virus has not spread across the state, since all those who are under surveillance have been confirmed to have had contact with Sawyer.
“My view of the fact that we are gaining control is informed by verifiable facts that I receive daily from our health workers that all the cases of those who have either unfortunately died, or those who are sick, and those who are contacts under surveillance are directly traceable to the imported case,” he said.
“There is also now the news that a confirmed victim has fully recovered, which reinforces the advice from our experts that it is not an automatic death sentence. This is encouraging news from which our containment strategy can profit greatly; because it means that we do not have any case of unknown origin, which will raise the risk of an epidemic.
“The challenge of managing the Ebola virus is big but our resolve to contain and defeat it is bigger. That resolve is demonstrated by the courage shown by the first set of health workers at state and federal levels who stood up to be counted, and the leadership of the state and federal ministries of health with the support of our international partners.
“In spite of fear, they stood up to be counted at a time of grave danger. We should salute their courage, professionalism, patriotism and humanitarian disposition.”
Revealing that about 61 persons under surveillance have been cleared, he appealed for the voluntary effort of more medical personnel. He also extended sympathy to the relatives of those affected by the virus.
“I appreciate the concerns and anxiety that friends and relatives of sick victims must be going through. I assure you that our thoughts and prayers are with you.
“Last week we cleared a total of 61 contacts after the 21 days surveillance, which is the known lifespan of the virus. These people were not sick. They were persons who needed to be monitored because of real or suspected contacts to be certain that they did not eventually fall sick.
“We cautiously wait to see how many more people will be cleared and hope that there will be no new cases. Nevertheless, our strategy is to prepare for the worst by making plans to expand the facility to take any new cases, while we hope for the best.
“There is a lot to do, and we need your collaboration to remain focused on containment and treatment.”