Ebola: FG Beefs up Surveillance, Screening at Airports

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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) rose from its weekly meeting in Abuja wednesday with a resolution mandating the Ministry of Health to beef up surveillance and screening of passengers at the nation’s land borders and airports with a view to averting another outbreak of Ebola into the country.

Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said blood samples taken from five patients in DR Congo confirmed that two of the five patients examined had been infected with Ebola.

“Of course, of great concern to the Federal Exceutive Council is the outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo. As you might be aware, over the last one month, DRC recorded 19 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever and lost 16 of the cases. But what is also particularly important was that on Monday, blood samples from five patients in the DRC, particularly in a particular district in DRC, in two of the five cases, Ebola was actually confirmed. And, FEC has now directed theFederal Ministry of Health to step up emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders, so that we can actually keep Nigerians safe,” Adele said.

According to him, the council resolved to set up Emergency Operation Centre to be chaired by one Dr. Babasanya whom he said led the Nigerian efforts in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone against the outbreak of the disease in 2014.

The minister also said not only would the government ensure the screening of passengers coming into the country especially those from DR Congo, Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) would also consider sending a team to DR Congo in its quest for capacity building with a view to ensuring effective management of the situation.

He promised that the government would also ensure that the country was well protected from the outbreak.

The minister also said following the content of the report presented to the council by the Ministry of Health on Lassa Fever, the council had resolved to lift the emergency earlier declared on Lassa Fever in the country.

On the industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Health Staff Union (JOHESU), he said negotiations would be concluded soon.

“We presented an update on the state of public health in Nigeria at the FEC meeting. We reported on the situation with Lassa Fever and declared that we are declaring the emergency phase of Lassa Fever outbreak over. Essentially, that implies that the emergency operating centres would be stood down but that instead of meeting everyday throughout the country, they will now meet once a week. They will still continue surveillance so that if there are cases anywhere in the country, we can quickly detect it and then treat it appropriately.

“Negotiations are still on with Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and the Minister of Labour is leading the negotiation and we expect that we will conclude on all issues very soon,” he stated.