Côte d’Ivoire will not be allowed to host their African Nations Cup qualifier next week against Sierra Leone in Abidjan because of fears over the Ebola virus, the country’s football federation said on Tuesday.
The Côte d’Ivoire government has told the football federation it would not allow the match to take place because all travel between the two countries had been banned.
“The authorities are taking no chances against a possible Ebola outbreak,” media officer, Eric Kacou, told reporters.
The move followed Congo’s demand that their scheduled qualifier in Nigeria next weekend be moved to a neutral venue because they are reluctant to travel to a country where there have also been deaths from the deadly virus.
Nigeria and Sierra Leone are among the countries affected by the hemorrhagic fever that has killed at least 1,427 people in the deadliest outbreak of the disease to date.
Sierra Leone and Guinea, another country where there have been over 300 fatalities, have been ordered by the Confederation of African Football to move their home qualifiers to neutral venues but the Côte d’Ivoire ban is the first time a government has told its own team it cannot play at home.
Côte d’Ivoire are scheduled to host Sierra Leone on September 6 in a Group D qualifier but must now scramble to find a new venue.
Sierra Leone have similar problems, as they battle to find a country willing to allow them to host their second game in the group, against the Democratic Republic of Congo on September 10.
Guinea have moved their Group E opener against Togo on September 6 to Casablanca in Morocco.
Nigeria, where there have been five reported deaths because of the Ebola virus, are still on course to host their opening Group A match against Congo on September 6 but the Congo Football Federation has written to CAF to ask for it to be moved to a neutral venue.
“We feel it is difficult to take our players to that region. Cameroon have closed their border with Nigeria because of the outbreak which goes to show the severity of the situation,” said Congo coach Claude Le Roy.
Nations Cup qualifiers start on September 5-6 with a second round of games on September 10 as the group phase of the preliminaries for the finals in Morocco next year gets underway.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that authorities in countries affected by Ebola should check people departing at international airports, seaports and major border crossings and stop anyone with signs of the virus from travelling.
The U.N. health agency reiterated that the risk of getting infected with Ebola on an aircraft was small, as infected people are usually too ill to travel, and said that the risk is also very low to travellers in affected countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
There was no need for wider travel or trade restrictions, the WHO said in a statement.
“Affected countries are requested to conduct exit screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings, for unexplained febrile illness consistent with potential Ebola infection.
“Any person with an illness consistent with EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation.
“If a traveller has stayed in areas where Ebola cases have been reported recently, he or she should seek medical care at the first sign of illness – fever, headache, sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting, among other symptoms,” the WHO said, noting that “early treatment can improve prognosis.”
Countries that do not have Ebola cases must strengthen their capacity to detect and contain any cases immediately, the WHO said, but it did not recommend any active screening of arriving passengers.
“It is better if countries do screening on the front-end,” WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl, said.
The stigmatisation faced by some West African athletes at the Youth Olympic Games holding in Nanjing, China, has been described as ‘an unethical act that is not good for sports’.
Nigerian contingents have withdrawn from the Olympic games as a result of the discrimination they faced, with the Chinese authorities insisting that they should be quarantined.
A sports journalist, Nnamdi Obanya, said on Monday that the discrimination and stigmatisation of the athletes, who were disqualified from taking pact in contact and pool sports, should be addressed by the regulatory bodies to forestall further negative effect of the Ebola Virus Disease spread in West Africa on sports.
“African countries, Guinea Sierra Leone and Nigeria, at the youths Olympics were told that they would be quarantined. They had already got to the games village. They were banned from pool sports and contact sports.
“No wrestling, swimming or Judo and a lot of athletes were affected so I guess the sports commissions from the various countries did not see the need of being in China if they are going to be quarantined and banned from certain games,” he said.
The discrimination is not only in countries outside Africa. Within Africa, countries have started adopting stringent measures that would discourage travelling from one country to another for sports competitions.
“Sports Will Suffer”
Youth players due for a championship in Windhoek, Namibia, were supposed to take a flight through Kenya to Namibia but they were told by Kenyan authorities that they would be quarantined for 30 days before they can get into Kenya and change flight.
Obanya condemned the decision, stressing that there would not be any need to embark on the journey, since the tournament would have been long over before they get to Namibia.
“Lesotho refused to come to Nigeria and honour an under 20 match. They have been walked over,” he said stressing, however, that more efforts should be made to end the spread of the disease as soon as possible.
“It is happening because Africa has not handled it well. We have had cases of the Ebola Virus in other regions of the world and nobody is banning them.
“It is affecting African Champions League, Confederations Cup and the Nations Cup qualifiers. All West African countries are supposed to play on a neutral ground and Nigeria has been listed as one of the affected countries. My main fear now is that we are not being proactive about it.
“And the Olympics will come up in Brazil very soon and they will not allow some West African contingents to enter the country.
We don’t need to wait till the Olympic time comes and we would be told that because of Ebola, we still need to quarantine you.
“There should be some joint efforts to create some sought of quarantine zone where you enlist athletes and those who have made trials can come from out of each country,” he said.
Obanya also pointed out that based on the rules of the game, no country had the right to deny athletes from participating at any tournament.
He urged Nigerian Authorities to seek redress over the stigmatisation of its athletes, insisting that things had been done wrong.
“There are rules for events and any nation that had qualified for the event has the right to participate. The right to the event belongs to the regulating body and not the host nation.
“Nobody has a right to disqualify anybody from any sports, whether it is contact or anything, except there is a directive given before hand that this must happened but I don’t recall that happening.
“The fact that the Chinese authorities decided to quarantine athletes, when they are not an international disease control agency, WHO or a disease management agency is wrong.
“If you are going to quarantine, they should have sent a notice before hand and don’t wait until people get there and you pull them out,” he said.
The sport journalist further called for an ‘Africa coalition’ and boycott of events to push their displeasure with the stigmatisation of African athletes.
On his part, the Secretary-General, Nigeria Olympic Committee, Tunde Popoola, said that the committee was waiting for a comprehensive report on what happened in China, which would be received within the next 48 hours, before the committee would report to the government.
He said that the committee would not be able to take a decision on its own, describing the reported stigmatisation as an embarrassing one.
“The athletes are on their way back. This Ebola Virus threat is really embarrassing. A whole lot of events have been hampered because a country has reported Ebola cases. That is not what it is supposed to be.
“In Nigeria, the Federal Government is tackling it, the issue is being handled very very seriously.
“If the Ebola Virus spread continues, sports will gradually suffer for it,” he said.
Mr Popoola stressed that as much as every country had the right to protect its citizens from any kind of illnesses or virus, persons that have passed the tested should be allowed to participate in the sports.
He said that the best thing to do at the moment was for Nigeria to pull out of the Olympic Games, but stressed that the issue would be addressed in a very mild and nice manner.
“We are in contact with the IOC and we have expressed our dissatisfaction to the Chinese authorities and the organisers over what happened and what we do not like about it.
“If this continues we may have to go the other way of coalition and we will deal with the issue,” he said.
The incident in Nanjing has raised many reactions, but the Ebola Virus is only transmitted by persons that are already ill. All Nigerian athletes meant to participate in the Olympic were all in good health.
Critics believe that no sick athlete should have been allowed to take part in the contact or pool games that Nigerian contingents were disqualified from.
Following the outbreak of Ebola Virus in Nigeria, the Abia State Government has organized a one-day sensitization and enlightenment campaign on Ebola disease for all the civil servants in the state.
This was to create more awareness on precautionary measures as well as attitudinal change towards handling things that involve mucus membranes of the body.
The Director, Public Health and Disease Control, State Ministry Of Health, Franklin Orji, disclosed that the campaign would ensure that Abia civil servants are equipped with adequate and genuine information concerning the diseases. It would also give information about how to check its spread from one person to another.
Some of the civil servants, after the seminar, disclosed that they had learnt a lot concerning the spread, symptoms and preventive measures of the Ebola Virus and promised to put it to work.
Some of them also shared how they intend to put the recommendations to work in their offices and homes.
In the mean time, prevention and careful precautionary measures might be the most effective and needed tools to minimize the spread of Ebola Disease.
The event was a collaborative effort by the State Government and stakeholders in the health sector.
The Federal Government has confirmed 11 cases of Ebola, after a doctor who treated the Liberian man who brought the disease to Lagos fell ill.
The Health Minister, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, told a news conference in Abuja on Thursday that a medical doctor who had primary contact with the late Patrick Sawyer has been confirmed to have contracted the Ebola virus disease.
A member of staff of West African regional economic body, ECOWAS, this week became the third person in Nigeria to die of the disease.
“Eight (others) are still alive, more than half of them are doing very well and actually showing signs of recovery … under treatment,” Prof Chukwu said.
The Health Minister added that 15 out of the 21 persons under surveillance for Ebola virus in Enugu State, after a nurse who ignored surveillance restrictions fled Lagos to Enugu State, have been cleared and freed by the Ministry of Health.
According to Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, only six out of the 21 earlier placed on surveillance actually had contact with the nurse.
The six, who had contact with the nurse, are now under surveillance with restrictions to movements for 21 days, to see if any would develop the symptoms for the virus.
In all, Nigeria now has 169 persons who had secondary contacts with those being quarantined for developing symptoms of the Ebola virus.
The World Health Organization has called this Ebola outbreak, whose worst affected countries include Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, an international emergency. It has killed around 55 to 60 percent of those who have contracted the disease.
Meanwhile, the Straits Times , a Singapore based newspaper, said on Thursday that a Nigerian woman sent to a Singapore hospital isolation unit does not have Ebola as initially suspected.
The Chief Executive of the government hospital where the woman was sent, Philip Choo, said that it was a false alarm and the woman had been discharged.
The woman, in her 50s, was believed to have flown into Singapore recently and arrived at a hospital emergency department with a fever.
According to the World Health Organisation, the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola has claimed the lives of 1,069 people and there are 1,975 probable and suspected cases, the vast majority in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Twenty-one personsare suspected to have contracted the Ebola Virus Disease and are under surveillance in Enugu State, South east Nigeria.
After a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, told reporters that one of the nurses, who had contact with the index patient, late Patrick Sawyer, had traveled to Enugu State contrary to instructions and had had contact with the 21 persons.
According to Mr Maku, 198 Nigerians have been traced to have contacted the virus. While 177 are in Lagos, 21 persons in Enugu are being watched.
The FEC devoted this week’s meeting to the efforts being made to combat the Ebola Virus which entered Nigeria some 23 days ago and had been declared a National Emergency.
At the meeting, the Minister of Health, Dr Onyebuchi Chukwu, told the council that Nigerians had been on the alert even before late Sawyer entered Lagos with the virus.
He told reporters that he was in touch with all the Commissioners for Health and that the Governors of the 36 states and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory had been called for a meeting with the President, an indication that the government was taking the case serious.
He said a committee had been set up to handle the claims by many Nigerians that they have a cure for the ailment and called on Nigerians not to panic, as the government was in touch with the rest of the world on the possible cure for the disease.
The Nigerian government had requested for an untested drug, Zmapp, believed to be efficient in the treatment of Ebola virus from the United States but had not gotten any concrete response.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization supported the use of untested drugs for the treatment of the disease, which the Nigerian government said its outbreak was a National Emergency.
As part of efforts to contain the disease, which had claimed three lives in Lagos State, President Goodluck Jonathan had set up an intervention plan with 1.9 billion Naira approved for the control of the disease.
The Federal Government had urged those who had primary contact with the index patient to report themselves so that they could be quarantined.
The Kaduna State branch of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has advised both the federal and state governments to focus more of their enlightenment campaign on the Ebola virus disease to the rural communities rather than concentrating on the urban areas.
The association said that this has become imperative because majority of the rural dwellers eat more bush meat than their urban counterparts, and are also not properly enlightened to know the risks associated with the Ebola virus disease.
The Kaduna State NMA Chairman, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, gave this advice at a press briefing in Kaduna on Saturday, where he debunked rumours spreading round the state since Thursday that there was an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the state.
He advised the residents to always confirm any issue relating to the Ebola case from health personnel instead of relying on rumours. He also advised them to adopt measures of protecting themselves from contracting the virus.
Mr Ibrahim reiterated the willingness of his members to attend to any case of Ebola or any other emergency in the state, despite the ongoing strike by medical doctors across the country.
He, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Government’s insurance cover for health workers who are attending to victims of Ebola virus, as well as the level of preparedness shown so far by both the Federal Government and the 36 state governments.
The Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, has reiterated the government’s determination to put an end to the spread of Ebola virus in Nigeria and protect all its citizens from contracting the disease.
While speaking on the Tuesday edition of Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, he noted that it would be wrong to speculate if there had been more cases of the virus but maintained that some health workers who attended to the late Patrick Sawyer had shown fever symptom but the tests on them turned out negative with the exception of the female doctor who had been confirmed to have contracted the Ebola virus.
On the general situation of things in the country, he said that 70 people, who had primary contacts with the Liberian, were currently under active surveillance, and having shown suggestive symptoms, about 8 people have been quarantined.
He added that the family of the female doctor has also been kept under watch and surveillance, they have been tested and none of them had tested positive yet.
Questions were raised about Nigeria’s involvement in the conference of African Health Ministers held in Accra, Ghana and how it has allegedly failed to address the issue of Ebola spread across the continent and into Nigeria, and Prof. Chukwu explained that indeed the conference addressed the issues of Ebola spread.
He revealed that one of the resolutions of the conference, which was facilitated by the World Health Organisation, was “the establishment of coordinating mechanism for all the ECOWAS countries, plus all the Central African countries, on how to ensure that we share common strategies, best practices and information as we moved on.”
He explained that the spread of Ebola was “just unfortunate”, as the late Patrick Sawyer, whose was the index case, travelled to Nigeria against the warnings of his own country.
“How he ended up travelling and not disclosing full information to those who were asking (is unknown). Even on the hospital bed he was still denying. Its just unfortunate that he just brought this into Nigeria, but then it tells you that every country of the world is indeed at risk”, he said.
He, however, gave assurances that the global community was aware of this risk and there were efforts to address it.
“This week the W.H.O is meeting in Geneva to review all strategies that are in place and to see if anything more drastic could be suggested.
“Even in-country here in Nigeria, we are working as a team; Federal Government, Lagos State Government, other state governments, W.H.O, US Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention. We continue to review the strategies we are putting in place.”
Speaking on the focus of the strategy being deployed, he noted that communication was paramount, beyond information, as there was need to always share information and this, he said, the states and Federal Government were “doing very well”.
He stated that the President has been supportive of the Federal Ministry of Health by inaugurating an inter-ministerial committee for communication strategies, and eight ministers, whose offices are relevant, were serving on the committee. They include the Ministers of Communication Technology, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Interior, Aviation, Science and Technology and the Minister of Information, who chairs the committee.
Asides the use of electronic media to run jingles, which had started since March 2014, the Health Minister disclosed that the scope of communication had been widened with the launch of a new website: www.ebolaalert.org which is an interactive website that accommodates sharing of suggestions, airing complains and answering questions from citizens. This is in addition to accounts being opened on social media platforms; Facebook and Twitter.
A toll-free telephone line; ‘0800EBOLAHELP’ has also been launched for the public, dedicated to reaching the health agencies and help desks set up to attend to citizens.
Other strategies include diagnosis, which he said has been greatly improved to the delight of the country’s development partners, adding that they would continue to upgrade.
Border screening was also mentioned as part of the strategies. This include temperature screening and data collection of all passengers entering the country. He added that there had been a directive for corpses not to be brought into the country without proper death certificates.
He cited the cases reported in Anambra and Imo states as examples of how the issue of corpse screening would be handled. He insisted that the responsibility was on the families of the dead persons to prove the cause of death, while the corpses would also be subjected to tests by Nigerian authorities.
Many citizens have expressed the view that the doctors’ strike was a blessing in disguise for Nigeria, owing to the view that the Liberian carrier of the Ebola virus would have been taken to a public hospital where there are usually more patients and this would have led to a possibly uncontrollable spread, but Professor Chukwu believes that while this could be a valid opinion, the country still remained at a disadvantage with the doctors being on strike.
Although, according to the Minister, the non-availability of doctors in government hospitals across the country hadn’t affected the management of the Ebola virus yet, he warned that there were possibilities of more cases of the virus springing up in the coming days and at this point more experts would be needed to manage it.
He appealed to the striking doctors to get back to work as most of their requests had been addressed by the Federal Government.
He said that the reasons for the doctors’ refusal to resume work could only be answered by the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association, as all relevant authorities and stakeholders had intervened in the matter and he could not explain why the doctors have refused to resume.
Nigerians have also expressed fear that Nigeria lacked the infrastructural capacity in its health sector to handle the outbreak of Ebola.
The Health Minister, while admitting that there was dire need for the country to move faster in that aspect, said that work had commenced on providing more isolation facilities across the country and within the hospitals to prevent the spread of the virus.
He commended the Lagos State Government for providing the required facilities to quarantine and treat patients. “Given the way Lagos State has been proactive in this matter, I want to commend the authorities of Lagos State. I believe still working with them, they will be able to provide additional spaces”, he said.
The Minister also promised to do more on sensitizing young Nigerians on the Ebola virus. He revealed that the Ministry had commenced work on collaborating with schools across the country to provide proper information to the students.
Ebola and Bush Meat
On the suspected cause of the virus, Prof Chukwu maintained an earlier plea that Nigerians who consider bats as delicacies should avoid its consumption and that of other bush meat as they could have been in contact with bats.
He, however, added that those processing the bats and other bush meat were more in danger of contracting the Ebola virus as they are the ones who handle the animals in their raw state. He explained that the meat, if well heated up, could be free of the Ebola virus.