Nigeria’s request to have ZMapp – a trial drug that yielded considerable success after it was administered to two American medics who got infected with the virus while treating Ebola victims in West Africa – will not materialise, as President Barack Obama has said it is “too soon” to start sending the drugs to afflicted West African countries.
At a joint press conference after the weekly federal executive council meeting on Wednesday, information minister, Labaran Maku and health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu had revealed that Nigeria requested the trial drug from the United States Centre for Disease Control.
ZMapp led to an improvement in the health conditions of the US medical personnel, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were in very critical conditions before taking the drug that had only previously been administered to chimpanzees.
But rather than have the drugs go round Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, Obama advocated control of the disease and the building of virile health institutions.
“What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place,” he said at a news conference.
“And the countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and isolate cases quickly enough.
“You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers, which is why it spread more rapidly than the periodic Ebola outbreaks previously… I think these countries should instead focus on building a strong public infrastructure … We have to let science guide us.”
He said that “despite the extraordinary pain and hardship of the persons and families who have been affected and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously”, it is important for all concerned to be reminded that Ebola is not an air-borne disease, but one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if the right protocols are used.
“What we have done is to make sure that we are surging not just US resources but we’ve reached out to European partners and partners from other countries working with the WHO to help to get all the health workers that we need on the ground, to help to bolster the systems that are in place, to nip as really as possible any additional outbreaks of the disease,” Obama said.
“And then, during the course of that process, I think it is entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments that can improve the survival of what is obviously a deadly and brutal disease.”
Ebola claimed its first Nigerian casualty on Wednesday –a nurse who was among the medical workers who attended to Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the man who introduced the virus to Nigeria.
Though Ebola has no known cure or vaccine till date, a high level of personal hygiene and consciousness by avoiding contact with bodily fluids of infected patients reduce the chances of contracting it.