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Fresh Ebola scare in Lagos rattles hospital

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Liberia, Sierra Leone gain in EbolaTHE management of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Lagos, has refuted reports in the social media that two Chinese nationals allegedly died of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the hospital.

Also, the Federal Government has denied rumours of fresh outbreak of the virus even as The Guardian reliably gathered that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is investigating the issue.

Similarly, Lagos State government yesterday debunked rumours making the rounds that fresh cases of the disease had been recorded in the state in the last one week.

State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, at an inter-ministerial news conference said the fresh Ebola fear was on account of a posting on social media about a week ago that EVD has returned to Nigeria, killing three and infecting 12 other persons. But upon investigation, all the claims turned out to be false.

Idris, in the company of Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba and the Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed, said there has been no fresh case of Ebola outbreak in Lagos or any part of the country since it was contained last year.

He said findings revealed that the EVD rumour emanated from two different websites and that government had swung into action to verify the source and veracity of the claim, its author as well as embarked on social media campaign to debunk the news on its facebook site.

The Commissioner identified the websites where they are spreading the rumour as, “www.mercyjblog.com/2015/04/breaking-iebola-return-to-nigeriaiafter.html and http://www.naijabadoo.com.”

He further explained that the second rumour, concerning two Chinese visitors from Sierra Leone was posted on twitter @iChexo on April 12, claiming that the two Chinese died of EVD at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) the same day.

Idris said investigation carried out at LUTH confirmed that to be completely untrue.

However, a new Ebola vaccine may be trialed in humans after eight macaques immunised experimentally did not succumb to the deadly infection, whereas two unvaccinated monkeys did. And in a separate development, research into the biological mechanisms of the virus has produced results that could lead to a future drug treatment.

Indeed, some answers on the limitations of vaccines and the secrets of Ebola have been provided by the two new studies published in journals Nature and Cell Reports.

Meanwhile, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC) is set to take off, as the African Union (AU) and the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have formalised technical partnership deal for that purpose.

The African CDC is expected to, among other things, help African countries effectively monitor public health, respond to public health emergencies, address complex health challenges, and build needed capacity.

An African Surveillance and Response Unit, which will include an Emergency Operations Center, is expected to be launched later this year as part of the bigger African CDC structure.

The African CDC will be a public health institute supporting the whole continent of Africa, the U.S. CDC said in a released obtained by The Guardian noted.

CDC Director noted: “The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African ministries of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to any disease outbreak. This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the United States to advance public health across Africa and global health security.”

The statement stated: “The need for an African CDC was recognised at the African Union Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB, and Malaria in Abuja in July 2013. The concept has since moved through various stages of development, stakeholder review, and approval.

“The African CDC Surveillance and Response Unit will provide technical expertise and response coordination during emergencies. Through the AU Support for Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) mission, the African Union sent over 800 medical volunteers and public health responders to fight the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from September 2014 to February 2015.’’

Chief Medical Director, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, told journalists yesterday in Lagos: “Our attention was drawn this morning to a malicious piece of information making the rounds on social media which purported that two foreign nationals brought to LUTH on Sunday, April 12, 2015, died of the Ebola Virus Disease.”

Bode said the press briefing was to swiftly deny any such rumour and inform members of the public that no such event happened. He said LUTH has combed her records at all points of entry for the past two weeks and have no such incident to report. The LUTH CMD said the hospital’s professionals at the Emergency Services, various lines of responders to any such event; laboratories and nurses all reported no such cases in LUTH.

Ebola-Virus

Ebola virus

Bode said such rumour is recklessly malicious and the hospital condemns whoever and wherever it originated from. He insisted that if left unchallenged this falsehood is capable of undermining the glorious works and enormous sacrifices made by the Federal Government, state governments, various stakeholders, many sung and unsung heroes and heroines who rid Nigeria of the dreaded disease and won country many international accolades.

The LUTH boss said the rumour also has grave implications for Nigerians travelling to sundry places and may negatively impact the country’s sub-regional economy at this critical phase.

Bode implored the print and electronic media to please let all Nigerians know that nobody died of Ebola in LUTH and people should disregard this mischievous rumour. He said LUTH has maintained the required vigilance and shall continue to observe all precautions to quickly identify any likely cases of Ebola, in line with international best practices. Bode said the general public should therefore go about their normal daily activities without panic.

A reliable source from one of the foremost research institutes in the country had confirmed to The Guardian on Sunday of receiving email of possible Ebola case in the country. The source, which prefers anonymity, however, said he had contacted the WHO and was assured the United Nations (UN) apex health body was already investigating the issue.

Nigeria was declared Ebola free on October 20, 2014. A total of 20 cases were recorded of which seven died and 11 recovered. A total of 25,226 cases have been recorded so far worldwide, of which 10,587 died.

Meanwhile, according to another report monitored by The Guardian, the government has advised the public to ignore reports of a recurrence of the Ebola virus in the country.

Government disclosed in a public notice posted in the official alert platform for Ebola.

The notice traced the source of the story to unnamed female blogger, who allegedly wanted to generate traffic to her website.

The notice reads: “We found a fast spreading false rumour of Ebola cases in Nigeria. The rumour was initiated by an irresponsible blogger who lied that there are cases of Ebola in Nigeria just to generate traffic to her website.

“In order to prevent what happened during the Ebola outbreak where people were told to drink salt water and some ended up losing their lives, we are doing this to let you know ahead of this rumour and to also tell your friends and neighbours.

“The rumour is false, there is no known case of Ebola in Nigeria.

“We will be one of the first to know if there is Ebola in Nigeria and be sure we will notify Nigerians through official and appropriate channels.”

It added that WHO in partnership with the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and the Lagos State Ministry of Health had trained hospitals across Lagos and other parts of the country on how to report any suspect case of Ebola.

Meanwhile, the vaccine – which gave protection to the animals after a single dose – showed success in overcoming safety limitations that have been seen with the use of the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a vector.

The use of this virus is designed to carry, as harmlessly as possible, the immunity-provoking proteins from the Makona strain of the Zaire Ebola virus.

The scientists working on the new version of this type of vaccine have shared their results in a letter to the journal Nature.

They say the vaccine-associated viremia that has been seen in the first-generation VSV-based vaccine, already in human trials, has now been “reduced tenfold” in their study.

The experts worked together from the University of Texas Medical Branch, including the Galveston National Laboratory, and the commercial immunology and virology departments of Profectus BioSciences.

Profectus – which specializes in vaccines based on VSV (the virus that rarely affects us, with flu-like symptoms, and instead most commonly affects cattle, which get a disease resembling foot-and-mouth) – has been funded for the development of Ebola vaccines by U.S. government grants, reports The New York Times.

The scientists worked with Profectus to use its VesiculoVax “vector platform.” The firm’s chief scientific officer, John Eldridge, PhD, says in a press release:

“This is the first demonstration of a vaccine that is able to rapidly confer single-dose protection against the current Makona strain of Zaire Ebola virus that is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in the ongoing epidemic in West Africa.”

In the conclusion of their article, the researchers outline the potential of the vaccine: “These findings pave the way for the identification and manufacture of safer, single-dose, high-efficacy vaccine(s) to combat current and future filovirus outbreaks in Africa and their use as biological weapons.”


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