BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
The federal government has put all Federal Teaching Hospitals in the country on alert for the resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus in Guinea – Conakry.
The directive was conveyed by the Federal Ministry of Health to the tertiary health institutions through an internal circular, dated April 19, 2021 and signed by the director of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, Dr Ngozi Azodoh, on behalf of the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.
The circular addressed to all heads of department and programmes in the ministry, with reference no: DHPRS/2/219/18/1, noted that the alert was necessitated by an earlier letter sent to the ministry by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informing Nigeria of the resurgence of the virus in Guinea, which had devastated the West African country in the past.
The circular exclusively obtained by LEADERSHIP Sunday stated that based on the development, the Liberian government had also requested the relevant authorities in Nigeria to take necessary measures to avoid further spread of the deadly virus.
“While the relevant Technical Department/Agencies are working on the National Response and instituting appropriate measures, you are to also be mindful of this outbreak and its implications to the West Africa (WA) sub region and be guided accordingly,” Azodoh said, adding that the circular should be treated “as important”.
Earlier in February this year, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had warned that Nigeria has been placed at ‘moderate risk’ of Ebola outbreak.
The NCDC, through its website, had said that the decision was based on the proximity of Guinea-Conakry to Nigeria and other West African countries.
This followed the declaration of Ebola outbreak by health authorities in Guinea on February 14 after three cases detected in Gouécké, a rural community in N’Zerekore prefecture, tested positive for the virus.
Ebola is an acute severe viral illness characterised by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat, which can be followed by vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said with the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea being a border area, countries in the sub-region are on high alert and increasing public health measures and surveillance in border towns and communities to quickly detect and respond to possible cross-border infections.
Meanwhile, some health professionals in the country have urged the government to be proactive in its response to health emergencies.
Stressing the need to increase the country’s land/border surveillance system to ensure that people coming into the country are being monitored, they called for more public health preventive measures to prevent it from coming into the country.
Immediate past president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr Francis Faduyile, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the only way Ebola could come into the country is through transportation and that there was need to put a lot of effort at different points of entry.
Also, the president, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Prof James Damen, said Nigeria lacked structures in place to overcome other outbreaks of epidemics.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had earlier said that 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.
It hinted that the EVHDWG had carried out a risk assessment on the possibility of transmission of the virus to Nigeria.
The Centre said, “Several measures have been put in place to prevent and mitigate the impact of a potential EVD outbreak in Nigeria. A National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) operating from NCDC’s Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) is on alert mode. We have a team of first responders on standby, ready to be deployed within 24 hours in the event of an EVD outbreak in Nigeria.
“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.”
On border, NCDC said the Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health has scaled up screening at points of entry, adding that it would also scale up risk communications and other activities.
Effort by our reporter to reach the minister of health yesterday was futile, as calls put to his phone line were not answered.
The director of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, who was reached on phone refused to speak on the issue.