Yellow Fever Still Ravaging Ebonyi Communities… Kills Mother of Twins… 4 More Cases Emerge
By Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy
There was palpable fear across villages within Mgbalukwu and Ndieze communities both in Izzi LGA, Ebonyi State following the recent outbreak of yellow fever disease in the areas.
This is coming few days after the public declaration of the deadly disease by permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Hon. Chris Achi, when four more fresh cases were recorded at MDGs Health Centre, Ndingele Village in Mgbalukwu ward 2.
Citizens Advocate reporter who visited the centre observed that there were increased cases of the deadly disease as no fewer than four patients have been admitted at the centre including breast feeding babies.
It was learnt that most of the patients come from Nkumoro and Ndiewugo villages where more than 20 patients had been recorded since the outbreak including a mother of three months old twins.
The disease outbreak which was discovered since 26th July, 2019 had recorded 15 more cases before now and in addition to that, 18 fresh cases had also been found on Monday this week.
Among those that had been killed by the Yellow fever are women, men, children and two nursing mothers, and of the nursing mothers, one left behind three months old twins: Annes and Confidence.
Officer in Charge of MDGs Ndingele, Mrs. Uguru Susan, and her assistant, Mrs. Ogbangba Grace lamented that the centre had faced serious challenges in effort to deliver the affected victims but had suffered setback for the fact that the centre has poor human resource like laboratory scientist and few health workers to enable them attend properly to the affected persons.
They lamented that the centre treats patients with torchlight from handset since they have no light and the available generator was not functional and the insecticide mosquitoes treated nets are not enough.
They appreciated the effort of Ebonyi State government for their intervention but appealed for provision of more drugs and medical experts to save the community and they also urged federal government to make provision of water and equip the centre to serve the people of the area.
Meanwhile, the government, had in the wake of the outbreak, equally said that those affected by the virus were moved from the villages to Iboko General Hospital and the Virology Centre. It also said that with the combined team of health professionals in the State’s Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organization (WHO) amongst others, the disease had been contained, and those hospitalized had been confirmed normal, discharged and returned to the villages.
But a visit by Citizens’ Advocate to the areas, showed that the disease was still very much alive within the rural folks.
Every now and then, one or two family members are still being inffected, children are still being admitted for treatment at the only health centre within, and those looking after them are still expressing fears and worry over possible outcome.
The Yellow fever still ravages and kills indigenes of Ndingele, Ndiyoko, Nkumoro, Nduenwugo and Abarigwe villages and people across the community.
At Ndingele Mgbalukwu Izzi MDGs healthcare facility, our correspondent met a 22-year-old young lady, Egoyibo Ogbonna and her 13-year-old younger brother, Samuel Ogbonna. Both Egoyibo and Samuel are Yellow fever patients at the hospital, where another two more patients of the same viral disease, were hospitalized.
Looking frail, helpless, with yellowish eyes and dry lips in their hospital beds, they shared their experience and called on government and World Health Organization to save the community from the deadly disease.
According to Egoyibo, “When the sickness started, I tried all orthodox drugs and herbs but all to no avail. It was after that, that I was brought to this hospital. This is because this is the only health centre in this area.”
While she said she had hope of recovering from the illness, she equally expressed fear that the sickness might still kill many people, because according to her, there were no well equipped hospitals within the area for the treatment of the virus.
She said, “Our fear and worry is that this hospital is the only in this locality. When disease of this nature comes, it would kill many people because there are no well equipped hospitals here.”
“The disease started with cold all over my body, vomiting, fatigue, cough, headache, itches on my private part and general body pains,”
Her younger brother, Samuel, shared similar experience. He said the virus had become rampant in their community, stressing that it has affected many people there.
He observed that his condition before he got to the clinic was severe, adding that currently he could talk and move some parts of his body freely now.
The little Samuel, who appealed to both the state and federal governments to expedite action on their plans to arresting the situation, noted that the only way more deaths would not be recorded in the communities, was for the authorities to build and equip hospitals in the localities.
He said, “I can say that I’m better now than before. I can talk, move my hands and legs easily now. But it was severe. Since I haven’t died yet, I won’t die again.
“The sickness has become common in my village. It has killed people and still affects others. My sister and I are here and we are both affected by the Yellow fever. Governments should save lives in our community by building hospitals and putting the necessary things there. There is no good hospital here.”
Relatives of the affected persons have stories to tell and fears to express, as indigenes of the communities continue to battle the disease.
Miss Nkechi Ogbonna, elder sister to both Egoyibo and Samuel Ogbonna, admitted that her community was under siege of the scourge and noted that her siblings’ case was one out of the many cases of Yellow fever in their locality.
Nkechi, who is tending to her affected younger ones in the clinic at Ndingele, said her prayer to God was that her siblings should not die like others died.
She added that the 16 persons which government announced had died of the disease, was not the exactly number, adding government underestimated the figure.
She told our correspondent that many people had died of the virus, not just 16 or 20, pointing out that she wished government intervened early enough on the matter, the way it was killing people in the communities would not have been
Nkechi said, “My siblings’ case started when they complained of severe body pains and started having headache, constant vomiting, yellowish urine, joint fatigue. When the situation became serious, we rushed them to the hospital this morning and they were admitted immediately, which I can say that the nurses here are trying.”
“This is killing our people. A lot have died and if care is not taken, many more will die. We pray government to intervene in order to save our community from this disease. Many people died even before it was noticed by government that the disease has started killing people. The 16 persons that they said died is not the actual number. That is even not the problems. The problem now is what should be done to stop it.”
Another patient who suffers the disease is Martin Nwogha, a 37-year-old farmer from Ndiyoko village.
Nwogha said he was in his farm last week, when all of a sudden severe cold gripped him.
According to him, “Ordinarily, each time I had this kind of cold, I would get inside the bush, get some herbs, squeeze water from them and drink, thereafter I would get well. But this time around, it was a different experience.
“I started vomiting, passing yellowish urine, feeling severe headache, body pains and pains from the joints. It was at this point that I told my younger brother to arrange for an Okada man to take me to this clinic, because my strength was already failing me.”
He said it was at the hospital that he was tested and confirmed Yellow fever positive, adding that the virus does not show mercy to any person, because it is killing the old and the young.
He also insisted that the disease had become rampart in his village and killed many people, appealing to government at all levels to urgently come up with measures that would ensure it was stamped out of the area.
Also expressing fears about the virus, Kelechi Nwogha, younger brother to Martin Nwogha, who tended to his elder brother at the clinic described the situation as disturbing and alarming and called on the government and all stakeholders to swing into action to save the lives of the poor masses, who, according to him, were already faced with terrible hardship in the hinterlands.
He said, “Our village is being ravaged by this virus, Yellow fever, everybody is in fear, because many people have died of this sickness. I can’t say the exact figure, but many people have died and many are still being affected. We need government’s intervention.”
To Mrs Felicia Nwenyim, the story is not a different one. She has a 9-month old son, Obichukwu Nwenyim who has also been affected with the virus and was currently receiving treatment at the clinic in Ndingele.
Looking into his yellowish eyes, our correspondent observed a little child, under the cold grip of Yellow fever and was restless and shouted all through the interaction. According to one of the three nurses in the hospital, that was a sign that little Obichukwu’s case had become severe.
According to Mrs. Nwenyim, “My child is a victim of the Yellow fever. We are told that it is caused by Mosquito.
“The disease has killed so many people, both old and young in my village, Nkumoro. There is fear in the community. What have we done to deserve this? These days, you can’t sleep with your two eyes close, because you don’t know who might be the next to die. The entire village is cold and no joy again, because almost every family is in sorrow.”
“I appealed to the state government to distribute mosquito treated net to people in the entire community, because nobody is safe here, even a little baby. A good example is my small child.”
A-59-year old Peter Nwovu, from Nkumoro village, is another Izzi man whose family had been hit by the viral disease.
Nwovu had on August 7th, 2019, lost his sister in-law, Mrs Onyeka Nwanigor, to the disease. Mrs Nwanigor had three-month old twins she nursed, until the virus claimed her life. Today, the twins, Annes and Confidence are without a mother. Nwovu is the one taking care of the twins and their six other siblings.
Nwovu said, “It all started on Saturday when I was informed of my nephew’s wife illness. When I got home from Church the following day, Sunday, one of my daughters’ told me that Aunty was seriously sick to the point that she had refused to eat and that she said she had severe pains all over her body. I rushed there and asked her if she had taken drugs, she said she took herbs. I prayed for her.”
“The following day, the sickness became serious that all her eyes became yellowish. I took her to a patent medicine dealer who advised that I take her to the hospital at Ndingele. She was taken to the hospital the following day and after narrating her situation to the nurses there, they said there was no doctor there.
They suggested that we take her to Iboko General Hospital, but there was no way we could take her there because she was already weak. Eventually, I was still there and the nurse was called and she recommended what I should buy and which I provided and she was placed on drip.
The first drip finished and she was not able to take the second one, when all of a sudden she started screaming and thereafter died.”
“As for the twins, they are three months old, a boy and girl. It was suggested that a particular woman breast feed them but after I made enquiries, I suspended the idea and opted for baby milk, which I had been borrowing money from a Church member to buy for them. This has been serving as breast milk for them, since their mother died.”
“I was advised to meet the Local Government Chairman when some government officials came to the clinic and someone reported our plight to them. But since our road is very bad, I need to prepare before traveling to see them.”
“I decided to keep the children under my custody because my bereaved brother is a young man and so emotional that I fear if I allow him to be with the twins together with the other six children, they may not survive.
“I beg Ebonyi State Government and all concerned individuals, NGOs to come to our aid and help train the twins. I also call on government to do something to stop this disease, because it is killing our people. From this village alone, more than ten persons have died since the outbreak of the disease.”
There have been divergent versions of what caused the virus, as many had said it was transmitted through mosquito, while others maintained it was a function of where one lived.
Speaking with Citizens Advocate, a Medical Director in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the virus is contracted when a mosquito that had bitten a sick person, equally bites another person close by, adding that it was not a communicable disease.
He said that most of the mosquitoes (aedes) that transmits the virus had bitten monkeys in the bush, stressing that when those mosquitoes bite human beings, they become infected.
He also said this was the first time Yellow fever outbreak was recorded in the state.
He said, “We have not had yellow fever in Ebonyi State. What we have now is the first time.”
According to the Medical Director of Iboko General Hospital, Dr. Okpo Solomon, “Now, it was on July 15th, 2019 that they brought some patients here in the hospital. Some of them came with yellowish eyes and were very weak. Some of them said they had gone to some places where they were administered herbs.
According to the state government, the idea was to mitigate the virus’ reoccurrence and spread to other parts of the state.
Yellow fever outbreak was reported in the area on July 15, 2019 and according to the state government, it had led to the death of 16 people and affected about 46 persons who were hospitalized at various health facilities in the state.
The Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Achi, stated this in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Sunday in Abakaliki.
He added that aside the 30,000 mosquito nets to be distributed in the area; there would be a mass vaccination across the state in the next few days.
Achi revealed that in the latest outbreak, about 62 cases were recorded, but 16 deaths occurred, regretting that the deaths would have been avoided if the victims had sought medical attention, other than taking herbs.
He said that various stakeholders in the health sector including the World Health Organization, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Global Health Initiate were in the state to ensure that the disease was permanently contained and called on the citizens to report any usual health case they noticed within their vicinity.
He further disclosed that the Global Health had earmarked over 1,500,000 mosquito nets for the state, to help stamp out the virus and halt its spread.
The Permanent Secretary said, “We have already contained the disease, but there are other steps we have taken to stop it from reoccurring or spreading. We have about 30,000 mosquito nets that will be distributed in that community where it occurred.
“There were about 62 cases recorded in this outbreak, but we had 16 deaths. Others, about 46 of them were hospitalized and they had been discharged. They are well now and they now have long-term immunity than those who had not suffered it.”