“The man was on NO watch list. I approved his travel. He emailed us several weeks earlier that his sister had died from the disease and that he had asked that his blood be taken for testing. That test result did not come back positive. So to say someone made him travel and exposed him to others is pure hate and misuse of a tragedy that have somehow brought the message home to the many who are in denial of this deadly disease, which by the way has NO CURE”. Sebastian Muah, former Deputy Finance Minister for Budget
Monrovia – Documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica suggest that the government of Liberia and a senior official at the Ministry of Finance ignored a major red flag by ArcelorMIttal which had warned its employees about the likelihood that Patrick Sawyer, a Ministry of Finance consultant, who also doubled as a consultant at the company, was infected with the deadly Ebola Virus prior to his travel to Lagos, Nigeria, where the deadly virus has now claimed the lives of 2 health care workers who came in contact with Sawyer with more than 40 others quarantined.
Sawyer’s infection has now been attributed as the key cause of the outbreak hitting Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria. With anger heightening amongst Nigerians over the careless attitude of Liberian officials who took their eye off the ball and allowed Patrick Sawyer, whose sister died of the Ebola virus to leave the ambient of Liberia for Lagos, prompting an apology from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
‘Mad Man’ Brought Ebola to us
Nigerian President Goodluck JonathanMonday described Sawyer as a ‘mad man’ when he said: “It is unfortunate that one mad man brought Ebola to us, but we have to contain it,” President Jonathan said. “As a government we promise we will do everything possible to contain Ebola.”
President Jonathan’s label of Sawyer as a mad man comes on the heels of the revelation Obi Justina Ejelonu, one of the Nigerian health care workers, who was on duty at the First Consultant Hospital in Obalende, Lagos when Sawyer was brought in, who explained some irrational behavior by Sawyer pointing to why the virus is spreading among nurses and doctors who came to Sawyer’s aid.
Obi Justina is said to be clinging on with her life after becoming infected with Ebola although she had initially posted a message on her Facebook page a boast that she had limited contact with Sawyer and was grateful to God to be alive.
Obi Justina wrote: “I never contacted his fluids. I checked his vitals, helped him with his food (he was too weak)….. I basically touched where his hands touched and that’s the only contact. Not directly with his fluids. At a stage, he yanked off his infusion and we had blood everywhere on his bed….. But the ward maids took care of that and changed his linens with great precaution.”
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf expressed disappointment in Sawyer’s behavior to travel after attending to his sick sister, remarking that he acted with disrespect and ignored the advice from health officials thereby placing the health of Nigerians at risk.
The president angrily stated on Independence Day, July 26 “In another event, one of our compatriots met his untimely death and put to risk others across borders because of indiscipline and disrespect for the advisory that had been given by health workers”. Nigerians anger heightened following the death of one of the medics who attended to Sawyer upon arrival in Lagos at the First Consultant Hospital in Obalende.
Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria Al-Hassan Conteh recently appealed for protection for Liberians residing in Nigeria. Ambassador Conteh said “The attention of our embassy has been brought to several cases of harassment of Liberians especially in Lagos and other places. “As we combat this disease, this is not only a health issue but socially too. It is important that we frame our public campaign to indicate that an association is not causation. “For example, not because the index case came from Liberia then all Liberians have Ebola,” he noted.
Sawyer’s departure from Liberia has been raising concerns as to how he was granted permission to travel after disclosing to workouts that his sister died of the Ebola virus.
Mittal Raises Red Flag
Arcellor Mittal, where Sawyer worked as an employee, red flagged Sawyer’s Ebola status after he visited the company headquarters in Buchanan and explained about the death of his sister from the deadly virus, a newsletter from the company and other communication indicates. In a July 11, 2014 memo to employees of Mittal captioned “Important Ebola Notice to All Employees and Contractors”, the company disclosed that Sawyer’s sister had died of the Ebola virus and he had minimal contact with his sister at the time the virus can be infectious.
Stated Mittal “A family member of an ArcelorMittal Liberia employee died on Tuesday, July 8th, in Monrovia due to a confirmed case of the Ebola virus. The employee had minimal contact with the victim, at the state where the virus was infectious. Doctors say the risk of potential transfer to any member of the ArcelorMittal staff or contractors is very low”. The company reported that Sawyer was submitted to the Ministry of Health for medical examination and request was made by the company to it to be served a copy of the result of the test.
“The employee has submitted to the Ministry of Health for a medical examination for possible Ebola infection, and has also requested the Ministry of Health to make the result available to ArcelorMittal Liberia and its close affiliates. There is no evidence to suggest that the employee has been infected”, Mittal told employees of the company.
In the true sense of following some of the preventive measures, Mittal announced that Sawyer will be absent from work for 21 days in order to go under the Ministry of Health guidelines to be monitored for the 21-day incubation period of the virus.
Further Mittal Preventive Measures
In further measures by the company to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, on July 25, the company Chief Executive Officer, Antonio Carlos Maria in a newsletter published, “the Satellite”, informed employees that the company received information that Sawyer, whose family member died on Tuesday, July 8th in Monrovia due to a confirmed case of the Ebola virus has died from a suspected case of Ebola with the results of the test are awaited.
“The first thing I want to reassure everyone is that the employee, Patrick Sawyer, had very limited contact with his ArcelorMittal colleagues from his contact with the victim and therefore we do not believe anyone working at ArcelorMittal will be at risk. Patrick was last at the Buchanan site on 9th July when he informed us about the death of his sister” stated Executive Officer Maria.
The company also told employees about the introduction of Thermoflash scanners to measure the temperature of each employee as a useful initial screening sign for Ebola.
“Any employee or contractor with a high temperature will be referred to medical personnel who will examine and, if necessary, direct the individual to a secure area. We recognize this is difficult news, particularly for those who knew Patrick, who was a very committed and valued employee”, the Mittal head communicated concluded.
How Finance Ministry Treated Sawyer situation
While Arcelor Mittal had alerted its employees in separate communications about the possible risk posed by the visit of Sawyer at the premises of the company by allowing him to be absent from work, the Ministry of Finance which is now trying to raise in funding to fight the Ebola virus failed to act until Sawyers’ death. There was no alert from the Ministry to its employees about the Sawyer sister’s death and his interaction with his sister prior to her death and the risk posed by such interactions.
Deputy Finance Minister for Budget at the time who has now been appointed as Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Company (LITELCO) took to the social media through a chat room, Concern Liberian.org to defend the action of the Ministry in allowing Sawyer to travel, admitting that he granted Sawyer travel permission.
“The man was on NO watch list. I approved his travel. He emailed us several weeks earlier that his sister had died from the disease and that he had asked that his blood be taken for testing. That test result did not come back positive. So to say someone made him travel and exposed him to others is pure hate and misuse of a tragedy that have somehow brought the message home to the many who are in denial of this deadly disease, which by the way has NO CURE”, Said Muah.
Muah argued that he was not a Medical doctor and as such could not deny Sawyer his wish to travel challenging another discussant in the chat room to take him to an international court for approving the travel.
“I am a medical Doctor? I will respond when angry Liberians try to make an uncalled for statement about a tragic situation. They, older people, say empty drum can’t make noise. So, you will be talking by yourself as I see you don’t know what you are talking about and as a matter of finding the solution you DO NOT HAVE any but trying to find blame. WOW. Someone must have frustrated the hell out of you in Liberia O…. Take me to the international court since I am guilty of approving a travel”, Muah challenged his fellow discussant.
President Sirleaf’s claim that Sawyer did not heed to medical advice not to travel and the acknowledgement from the former Finance Ministry official that he approved Sawyer’s travel in the wake of a red alert from Health officials that Sawyer sister had died of Ebola, raises more questions about the government’s handling of the travel dilemma that has now put Nigerians at odds with Liberians.
Madman- Sawyer’s Action Angers Jonathan
On Monday, Nigerian President Jonathan expressed anger at the manner in which transfer the virus to Nigeria describing him as a madman. According to the Vanguard newspaper, Jonathan, speaking at the annual Interfaith Conference in Abuja, expressed disappointment with the way and manner Sawyer brought Ebola to Nigeria and assured citizens that government is ready to stop the disease. “As a government, we promise that we will do everything humanly possible to contain the Ebola virus”, Jonathan assured.
“My conversation with the WHO DG, Dr Margaret Chan was revealed, she said 60 percent of the transmission was spread during burials. That is why in my announcement; I’ve been saying that people should be careful about burials.
“Some people like burial ceremonies. This is not the time for burial ceremony, somebody is dead, he is dead, leave him there. This is not the best time for those ceremonies. If he is dead, he is already dead, Sawyer that brought this Ebola to Nigeria; his sister died of Ebola. And he started acting somehow, his country asked him not to leave the country, let them observe him, but the crazy man decided to leave and found his way here.”
10 New Ebola Cases in Nigeria
Nigeria is now reporting 10 confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in the commercial capital Lagos up from seven at the last count with two deaths, including Sawyer, who carried the virus in, the health minister said on Monday. The 10 are people who had direct contact with Sawyer, who collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 25 and later died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said. A nurse who had treated Sawyer without knowing what he had and did not therefore wear protective gear, also died.
Nigeria on Friday declared a national emergency over the Ebola outbreak. “As of today (Monday), 77 primary and secondary contacts of the index case have been placed under surveillance or isolation,” Minister Chukwu said. The latest case was also a nurse, who had had primary contact with Sawyer, a Liberian-American. “When she got ill, we then brought her into isolation. We just tested her over the weekend.”
Chukwu announced a series of measures meant to contain the disease, including training health care professionals of surveillance of possible cases, putting port officials on red alert, a public awareness campaign in multiple languages and alerting hospitals to set up isolation wards. The Nigerian Red Cross said it had provided 18 volunteers to work with the authorities to educate people on how Ebola spreads.
Ebola is one of the world’s most deadly diseases, with no known vaccine or cure. The Zaire strain – the one currently spreading through West Africa – can kill up to 90 percent of sufferers, although in the latest outbreak the death toll has been around 55 percent.
As of Friday, August 8, 2014, the largest and longest Ebola outbreak in history — had killed 961 people and sickened 1,779 others. The WHO says, the virus is poised to sicken more than all of the previous outbreaks combined. There is currently no licensed vaccine or treatment for Ebola, although experimental drugs are being explored after two American medical missionaries infected with the virus appeared to show signs of improvement after taking new medications. About 54% of people who have been infected in this latest outbreak have died.
Last Friday, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” and has called for international solidarity” but also said many countries would probably not see any Ebola cases.”Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” Chan said. “I urge the international community to provide support on the most urgent basis possible.”