Body Flown in from DRC Tests Negative for Ebola

2017.05.25

  •  Health minister: Govt will remain vigilant

(RLB) A THISDAY INVESTIGATION

Chinedu Eze

The body of a deceased man flown into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Kenya Airways on Monday has tested negative for the Ebola virus, THISDAY has learnt.

Confirming this wednesday, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said that a test was carried out and had tested negative for the virus, but he refused to divulge the cause of the deceased’s death, citing medical confidentiality.

THISDAY had learnt on Tuesday that the corpse of a young man was flown in onboard a Kenya Airways flight and quarantined by the Port Health Services (PHS) to ascertain if the death of the deceased was caused by the Ebola virus, since the DRC is currently facing another outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever.

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In order not to cause panic in the country, Prof. Adewole was immediately contacted to ascertain if the dead person might have died as a result of the Ebola virus.

The minister on Tuesday confirmed that his ministry was aware of the body, which had been moved to the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for immediate tests and asked that THISDAY waited for 24 hours until the outcome of the test had been ascertained.

This was prompted by the knowledge that the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) protocols do not allow the handover of dead bodies infected with the Ebola disease to relatives of the deceased for burial, much less allowing such corpses to be flown across borders by an airline. Such bodies are meant to be incinerated by qualified medical personnel after death has been confirmed.

When contacted again yesterday, Adewole said the body had tested negative for the Ebola disease.

“We have conducted tests in LUTH and it is negative for Ebola Virus Disease. We shall however remain vigilant,” the minister said in a text message to THISDAY immediately after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of the cabinet in Abuja.

THISDAY’s investigation further revealed that the unaccompanied corpse, believed to be that of a Nigerian, was flown into the Lagos airport and dumped in the basement of the terminal.

As of Tuesday evening, the body had not been identified and no relative of the deceased turned up to claim it.

It was on this basis that the body was seized by the officials of Nigerian Customs Service who invited officials of PHS at the airport to examine the corpse.

An informed source told THISDAY: “I can confirm that a body was brought in yesterday (Monday) by Kenya Airways and we heard the body came in from the DRC and when the body arrived it was seized by Customs.”

THISDAY also learnt that when the corpse was taken over by federal health officials and moved out of the airport, PHS medical personnel thoroughly decontaminated the entire airport area, where the corpse was kept and all the persons involved in moving the corpse were quarantined and screened.

Although the report of the test result was negative, it was learnt that concerned aviation authority officials have written to Kenya Airways and reprimanded the airline.

They were said to have informed the airline that it should not have brought the corpse to Nigeria at a time the Ebola disease has resurfaced in the DRC.

A source with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) also confirmed that the agency was investigating the incident “within the ambit of the law”.

THISDAY also spoke to industry operatives who excoriated Kenya Airways for bringing in an unaccompanied corpse into the country and dumping the body at the airport without transferring it to its relatives.

An airline operator who was shocked at the incident said the NCAA should first of all suspend Kenya Airways from operating in Nigeria forthwith.

“What Kenya Airways has done is extremely unprofessional and they should be punished for it so that in the future nobody would try that,” the operator said.

As of press time, Kenya Airways had not made any statement concerning the corpse that it flew into the Lagos airport.