bY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja and ROYAL IBEH, Lagos
With the outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring countries, medical experts have tasked the federal government to adopt proactive measures to safeguard the country even as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has placed the nation at moderate risk.
This is coming as health authorities in Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak on February 14, after three cases detected in Gouécké, a rural community in N’Zerekore prefecture tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, some medical professionals in the country have expressed concern, saying since Guinea is close to Nigeria, government needs to increase the country’s land/border surveillance system, to ensure people coming into the country are being monitored.
President, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), FCT chapter, Dr Mnamdi Nd-Ezuma, told LEADERSHIP Weekend Nigeria needs to be more prepared especially when it comes to its borders, saying the preparations in terms of protecting the health workers is almost the same with managing COVID-19 patients.
He said the country is already in the centre of a pandemic, “It is not far fetched if we can apply the same control measures in the COVID-19 situation in the Ebola situation. Ebola is resilient and the death rate is higher compared to Coronavirus.
“I think we need to adopt more of public health preventive measures to prevent it from coming into the country. We need to do more on border control, importation and exportation. That is what we should be more bothered about because as it is, COVID is already on ground, some measures are already in place and if we can do more on the border it will help,” he added.
Also, the immediate past secretary, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos chapter, Dr Ramon Moronkola, said: “We are sharing border with Guinea and as such, the government needs to put surveillance system in place to monitor people coming into the country.”
He urged government to start creating awareness on the Ebola virus by letting people know what the virus is and how Nigerians can stay safe. “Just the way the government created awareness on COVID-19, they should also create awareness on Ebola.
“We already have existing structures in place to tackle COVID-19, those structures should also be used to monitor Ebola and ensure that the virus don’t enter the country,” he added.
Advising Nigerians, Moronkola said: “They should keep maintaining high standard of hygiene and keep applying all the precautions that they are applying now. We are already practicing social distancing, hand washing, sanitising our hands frequently and wearing of facemask. If we can stick to all these, keep doing them, we would be fine.
“We don’t need to be afraid, because the same preventive measures that we are applying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the same is needed with Ebola.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said it has an existing multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Working Group (EVHDWG), which coordinates preparedness efforts for EVD and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases.
The centre said the EVHDWG has carried out a risk assessment on the possibility of transmission of the virus to Nigeria. “Given the proximity of Guinea to Nigeria and other West African countries as well as other indicators, Nigeria has been placed at moderate risk of an EVD outbreak. The outputs from this risk assessment are being used to initiate preparedness activities in-country.
“We have also established testing capacity for EVD at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory. The NCDC will continue working with states to strengthen preparedness activities across the country,” it said.
On border, NCDC said the Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health has scaled up screening at points of entry, adding it will also scale up risk communications and other activities.