DR Congo Ebola Outbreak: FG Launches Preventive Actions

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  • Intensifies surveillance at ports
  • Directs healthcare providers to report suspected cases NCDC to unveil preparedness level sunday

Senator Iroegbu, Paul Obi, and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

Following the confirmation of an outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the Central African country of Democratic Republic of the Congo by the World Health Organisation, the Nigerian government has launched a series of preventive activities aimed at eliminating the likelihood of the spread of the disease to the country. Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, disclosed this in a statement yesterday by the ministry’s director of media and public relations, Mrs. Boade Akinola. Adewole directed port health officials to step up surveillance processes at all entry points to the country and report any person suspected of having the disease to the relevant state epidemiologists for prompt tests.

He said, “The symptoms to look out for include fever, fatigue, weakness dizziness and muscle aches. Patients with more severe cases show bleeding under the skin, internal organs or even from bodily orifices like mouth, ears, and the ears.

“Nigerians are urged not to panic as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is on ground and equipped to secure the health of citizens. The agency has for a while now been strengthening states capacities to detect, manage and respond to haemorrhagic fevers, including Lassa fever.”

Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, also confirmed the existence of measures to forestall spread of the disease. Ihekweazu stated, “We are aware and in communication with colleagues via formal channels.

“We will make a statement on preparedness levels on Monday.”

Adewole had earlier told THISDAY, “We are in touch with our port health services and reactivating surveillance. Travel history to be closely monitored. Hand washing should be the routine for all.” He said, “All cases of fever must be handled with care.”

The minister called for vigilance and increased awareness efforts on the symptoms of haemorrhagic fevers. He said healthcare providers and the general public must immediately report any sign of the illness to public health officials to forestall a reoccurrence of the disease, which killed eight people in the country in 2014.

Adewole called on states to begin social mobilisation and media awareness efforts via television, radio, print and social media. He urged state health ministries to strengthen their supervision services and escalate any incident appropriately. He also directed all Nigerian health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion by screening all for Ebola and other haemorrhagic fevers.

Adewole advised members of the public to observe a high level of personal hygiene, including regular hand washing.

WHO declared an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Thursday following the death of three persons from the disease. WHO’s Executive Director for Emergencies, Dr Peter Salama, said in a statement, “An investigation team led by the Ministry of Health (in DR Congo) and supported by WHO and partners has deployed and is expected to reach the affected area in the coming days.”

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency, and the Ministry of Aviation said they were on the alert for any fallout of the outbreak in DR Congo. Acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, told THISDAY yesterday that the country still had in place the preventive measures activated at the international airports following the 2014 Ebola outbreak. “Passengers still fill that form to ensure that everybody arriving the country through our airports is not a potential carrier of deadly diseases,” Yakubu said.

She said the thermal scanner had become a permanent apparatus at the arrival points. According to her, “There are sanitisers at our arrivals with the scanning apparatus, called thermal scanners, being installed by the port health services.

“The scanners have camera monitor that displays pictures aside the capturing of temperature. The port health officials are always at alert and we will also inform them of the need to increase their surveillance.”

Yakubu added, “We don’t have direct flight from Congo, we only have from Rwanda and Askier Airline from Younde, Cameroon. But I want to assure that we still have all preventive measures in place at our airports. There is no cause for alarm.”

In a similar vein, Head of Media and Public Relations, NEMA, Sani Datti, disclosed that the agency had started consultation with relevant stakeholders on how to manage any eventualities.

Datti said, “When you talk of Ebola, it’s not something new. We have already started monitoring the situation and relating with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Aviation, which are the major stakeholders.

“On our part as an agency saddled with the responsibility of managing emergency in the country, we are already gathering information about what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo as regards the recent outbreak of Ebola virus in that country from our Situation Room.”

Deputy Director, Press/Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, Mr. James Odaudu, also disclosed that the ministry was synergising with relevant stakeholders on prevention of the spread of Ebola to the country.

The Ebola virus was introduced into Nigeria on July 20, 2014 by an infected Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer, who came in through the Lagos, airport. Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, who treated Sawyer, was among those who died of the disease. The Ebola outbreak was successfully contained, with WHO officially declaring Nigeria Ebola free on October 20, 2014.