No fewer than two doctors and a nursing officer working at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki in Ebonyi State on Sunday reportedly died of Lassa fever infection.
Confirming the incident at a media conference on Monday, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike, said the index patient who was afflicted with the Lassa disease and was operated upon survived and had been discharged from the hospital.
He said, “One of the deceased doctors was on rural outreach assignment at the Mater Hospital, Afikpo and had been sick for the past two weeks. Before he could come to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, it was already late,” he said.
“Early last week there were suspected cases of Lassa and yesterday being Sunday, my attention was drawn to it that a doctor died of suspected Lassa fever; we sent 12 samples to the Ebonyi State Virology Centre, Abakaliki, and four came out positive,” he said.
Umezuruike debunked reports that the victims were taken to the Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State for treatment rather than the Ebonyi State Virology Centre built by the state government.
“The victims were treated at FETHA, a facility the Ebonyi State Government donated to the virology centre to the management of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki,” he said.
The commissioner said the deceased nurse (whose name was not given) assisted in the operation of a patient, who was bleeding after undergoing local uvulectomy and was rushed to the hospital.
“The patient was treated by a team of medical doctors on December 29, 2017, shortly after, those that treated him became sick, not knowing that they had been infected with the Lassa fever disease,” Umezurike explained.
He said the ministry had commenced contact tracing in order to monitor those who had contacts with the late victims to ensure that no further deaths were recorded.
During a visit to the hospital by our source on Monday, members of staff were in a gloomy mood as they discussed the development.
A source, who spoke in confidence, gave the names of the victims as Dr. Abel Udoh, a native of Akwa Ibom State and Dr. Felix Ali who hailed from the Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.