Fear and denial have been hugely detrimental to the containment of Ebola in West Africa. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, rumors of the government ‘making up’ the disease have led people to escape quarantines and put communities in danger. This mindset has also spread to Nigeria, where recently a diplomat named Olubukun Koye fled his quarantine.
The diplomat, who works for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was quarantined in Lagos after coming into contact with Patrick Sawyer. Many remember Mr. Sawyer as the American-Liberian who brought Ebola to Nigeria. Although his sister had recently died of Ebola in Monrovia, Sawyer was in deep denial about his exposure. When, in Lagos, the official tests came back positive, he went into a rage. Nurses say he began ripping the tubes from his arm and even attempted to urinate on the medical staff. ECOWAS officials did attempt to fly Sawyer back to Liberia, but this option was nixed as his prognosis worsened.
Nurses and doctors often describe a person’s descent into Ebola as one of terrible psychosis. Patients have been known to become violent, hostile or experience delusions during the late-stages of the infection.
Sawyer has since passed away from the disease but not before infecting others, including nurses who cared for him. Sadly, the rate of infection has steadily climbed in Nigeria. Although official confirmed cases number at 15, some have estimated that the reality is likely closer to 100-160 infections.
The ECOWAS official, who had contact with Sawyer, was later tested in Lagos when he began to experience Ebola-like symptoms. When he found out he was positive, he escaped from the Lagos hospital and fled to Port Harcourt, a large Nigerian city a few states away. One person close to the ECOWAS official has relayed the information surrounding the case.
Koye met with Dr. Ike Enemuo, who treated him ‘secretly’ at a local hotel. Although it’s difficult to say if Dr. Enemuo knew Koye had Ebola, it is certain that while Koye survived his infection, his doctor wasn’t so lucky.
A few days after treating Koye, Dr. Enemuo began to vomit blood. He was taken to one hospital, where he was rejected, and was later accepted into Good Heart Hospital. In between those times the doctor was cared for by his wife, who is also a medical professional. A few days later, Dr. Enemuo died and now his wife has also begun to show symptoms of the illness. She has since been placed in quarantine. The couple has a three-month-old child.
These facts are also further compounded by the fact that Dr. Enemuo was performing surgeries and treating other patients at the time he was infected.
However, the government of Nigeria has acted quickly to control the outbreak in Port Harcourt. They have traced more than 100 people who had contact with the doctor before he passed and are monitoring them for infection. Medical officials have often relayed that ‘picking’ infected persons out of the community is the number one thing governments can do to help stop the spread of Ebola.
After Dr. Enemuo passed, Koye made his way back to Lagos where he was tested again for Ebola. Despite his initial positive diagnosis, he is now testing negative. However, officials are now debating as to whether Koye should be held on manslaughter charges for infecting and killing Dr. Enemuo and endangering his wife.
Officials say they must first look into Nigeria’s law, as this case would set a precedence of transmission and infection leading to criminal charges.