FAAN Commences Screening of Inbound Int’l Flights Following Ebola Outbreak in DRC


• To extend screening to domestic flights

• WHO confirms second case in C’African country

Senator Iroegbu and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja with agency report

Following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Monday said that it has commenced screening of every inbound flight into the country, especially those from Central African countries and the rest of the world.

THISDAY checks revealed that the screening of passengers began on Sunday, in order to avert a repeat of the 2014 scenario when a Liberian national infected with the Ebola virus flew into the country undetected, resulting in the infection of 20 persons and nine deaths.

According to the acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Henrietta Yakubu, “We have started the screening of passengers coming into the country. The move is to prevent any unforeseen circumstances.

“The moment they arrive, we give them forms to fill. Before then, they go through the thermal scanner being installed by the Port Health Services.”
Yakubu explained that if FAAN is not vigilant, it won’t be able to detect possible carriers of the disease and “you won’t know that they are there”.

“The moment you pass through and your temperature is more than 38 degrees, you will be pulled aside and handed over to health personnel for further checks,” she said.
She disclosed that with the assistance of the Port Help Services and the Federal Ministry of Health, the screening of passengers would be extended to the domestic wings of all airports in the country.
But as Nigeria stepped up screening at entry points into the country, WHO on Monday confirmed that a second Ebola case had been detected in the DRC.
“So far, there are 19 suspected cases, including three deaths and two lab-confirmed cases,” a WHO spokesperson in Geneva said via e-mail.
The first case was confirmed on Friday in Bas-Uele province in the north-east of the country.

WHO has said the outbreak appears to be limited to that remote area, and that there was no need for travel restrictions for the time being.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a continent-wide mechanism set up to monitor disease outbreaks, said it had activated its emergency operational centre to monitor the situation in DRC, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The Central African country has suffered seven previous outbreaks of Ebola since the virus was discovered in the country in 1976.

The last outbreak in 2014 left 49 people dead.
The haemorrhagic fever has been most detrimental in West Africa, where it claimed more than 11,000 lives in 2014 to 2015.
WHO declared Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries that had been most effected by the epidemic, free of Ebola in 2016.

GAVI global vaccine alliance said on Friday that some 300,000 emergency doses of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak, after WHO confirmed a fatal case in Congo.

The vaccine, known as “rVSV-ZEBOV”, was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in clinical trials published in December 2016.

On December 23, 2016, an experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea, according to results published in The Lancet.
The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published in 2016.

The vaccine was studied in a trial involving 11,841 people in Guinea in 2015.
Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination.

In comparison, there were 23 cases 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.
The trial was led by WHO, together with Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Medecins sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, in collaboration with other international partners.

“While these compelling results is coming too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, this year received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and PRIME status from the European Medicines Agency, enabling faster regulatory review of the vaccine once it is submitted.
Since Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, sporadic outbreaks have been reported in Africa.

The 2013–2016 West African Ebola outbreak, which resulted in more than 11,300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine.
The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.
The trial used an innovative design, a so-called “ring vaccination” approach, the same method used to eradicate small pox.

When a new Ebola case was diagnosed, the research team traced all people who may have been in contact with that case within the previous three weeks, such as people who lived in the same household, were visited by the patient, or were in close contact with the patient, their clothes or linen, as well as certain “contacts of contacts”.
A total of 117 clusters (or “rings”) were identified, each made up of an average of 80 people.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has called on the federal government to prepare a strong response to the recent outbreak of the virus in the DRC.
The NMA in a statement issued on Monday by its President, Dr. Mike Ogirima, and National Secretary, Yusuf Tanko Sununu, called for vigilance, saying the recent outbreak of Ebola in the DRC was another major setback for the world.

According to the medical body, “The devastation brought by the last outbreak still remains fresh in our minds,” noting that “West Africa was the worst affected with more than 11,000 deaths recorded in the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Efforts by the Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria have been acclaimed as one of the best moments the country demonstrated – that where there is political will, success is assured.

“The role of our fallen heroes especially the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh in the control of the spread of the disease is not only worth remembering but reminds us of the need to make sacrifices for our country.”

Against this backdrop, NMA called on the federal government to remain vigilant, strengthen its response team, borders and other international routes of entry surveillance.
The association said it was ready to partner with the Ministry of Health to achieve another resounding success in the prevention and control of this fresh outbreak.

“We also wish to call on all health teams to refresh their knowledge on the clinical presentation of Ebola, apply universal basic precautions in patients’ care and use the standard protocols of management and reporting of suspected cases.

“The NMA also wishes to call on Nigerians not to panic and to cooperate with government in securing our nation, especially during surveillance at entry points if the need arises,” the body said.
The NMA also assured all Nigerians of the readiness of its members to do more to safeguard the health of the nation.