The return of Ebola, how prepared is Nigeria?

The return of Ebola, how prepared is Nigeria?

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It was in July 20, 2014 that Nigeria had its dosage of Ebola, when a Liberian envoy, Patrick Sawyer, brought the virus to the country through Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. The man died five days later.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO)’s report, a total of 19 people were infected with the deadly virus, of which seven people died, including Ameyo Adadevoh, the heroic physician who placed Sawyer in quarantine despite pressures from the Liberian government.

The Federal Government, state governments, international community, and Nigerians fought the deadly virus to the end.

Following the 42-day compulsory watch, on October 20, 2014, exactly three months after the outbreak, WHO officially declared Nigeria Ebola-free.

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a handful of the outbreak continued on a regular interval until few days ago when a fresh outbreak erupted, which has been described as the second-largest (outbreak) in the history of the disease.

After years of preparation and protective measures against the importation of the virus, the virus finally found its way into Uganda, through a five-year old boy who had made cross-border journey to the neigbouring DRC.  The little boy died, making it the first case of Ebola reported in the country. Two people have also reportedly dead and many have reportedly been infected with the virus, according to a BBC report.

“The Ministry of Health Uganda and WHO have confirmed a case of Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in Uganda” the Ugandan Ministry of Health said in its Twitter handle, @MinofHealthUG.

In response to the recent outbreak, the World Health Organisation, which has twice ruled that Ebola outbreak has not constituted a global emergency, had its International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee meeting, Friday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, said the committee will review the current situation to ascertain if it constitutes world health emergency.

“Following the spread of Ebola to Uganda from DRC, I am reconvening the IHR Emergency Committee on 14 June in Geneva to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” Ghebreyesus said in his Twitter handle, @DrTedros.

According to BBC reports, “some have predicted it could take up to two more years to bring Ebola to an end.”

So, what is Nigeria’s preparedness to stop the disease from gaining entrance into the country or combating it if it eventually finds its way into the country, within the two years’ prediction?

Babatunde Ogunsinamedical director, medical centre, The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State, said the lessons Nigeria leant last time when Ebola entered the country are enough to push Nigeria to be proactive this time, advising those in charge to be vigilant so that the nation will not experience what happened in 2014 when a Liberian sneaked into the country.

According to him, it is important to secure the nation’s point of entries and be watchful of planes that are coming from Uganda and other countries with Ebola.

“Everyone coming into the country will have to be screened and make sure no one has the virus,” he said.

Onyekachi Winteze, head, Port Health Services, federal ministry of health, said the ministry has put mechanisms in places to make sure that the nation does not have the repeat of 2014 incident.

According to her, the ministry has strengthened the point of entries across the country, trained staff at these entry points to be able to screen people coming in and going out to make sure people with Ebola symptoms or who are sick do not enter the country, or even leaving.

This, according to her, is done through the use of scanners at various entry points that could check temperatures as people walk pass through them in order to check people’s body temperature.

“We are not just working against Ebola, we are working against all forms of diseases and we are adequately prepared,” she said over the telephone conversation with BusinessDay.

According to Ogunsina, the consolation aspect is that, the Ebola is not in one of our neighbouring countries where people can easily travel by roads. Coming from Uganda or DRC is a bit far and requires planes, he said.

Winteze advised travellers to be vigilant and look out at the people around them. If anyone sick, having rashes, visiting the toilet frequently, sweating in the hot weather, using thick clothes during the heat, such situation should be reported to the authority immediately.

But in the eventual case where the virus finds its way into the country, Winteze said the ministry has health designated facilities across the country where infected person(s) will be quarantined. In addition, every other person who had contact with the Ebola patient will be traced along the entry route, and everyone in the chain will be contacted and quarantined, she said.

The ‘suspect’ will only be sent home after 21 incubation days, when everyone is satisfied that the patient is fine, free from the virus and free to reunite with people. Anyone who falls sick in the course of quarantine will be adequately treated.

“The facilities are on ground,” Winteze assured.

“I think Nigeria is equal to the task,” Ogunsina said.

Winteze said the ministry has undergone adequate campaigns in schools, markets, and various places through visual and audio methods to educate Nigerians across board on the deadly Ebola virus and the precautionary methods, adding that “we will bring more to the public so that everyone is aware.”

According to Ogunsina, every medical doctor in the country has been conscientised and is aware that if a patient is having symptoms similar to Ebola, and it is stated that the person has recently made a trip across to any of the affected countries, necessary procedure will have to be done.

According to him, it is better for medical doctors to be proactive by thinking that anybody that comes from any of the Ebola infected countries should be paid extra attention to, rather than thinking everything is normal.

“It is better to think that the person has Ebola than for any medical doctor to just feel that the person cannot have Ebola,” he cautioned.

 

JOSEPH MAURICE OGU



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