Chinedu Eze with agency report
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has reacted to the resurgence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and cautioned airlines to be extra vigilant to ensure that the carriers of the disease did not enter Nigeria by air.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in line with International Health Regulations (IHR).
Consequently, NCAA has directed all operators, especially airlines operating regional and international flights into the country, to exercise a high level of vigilance.
The regulatory authority in a statement yesterday by its spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said the directive, contained in a letter by the NCAA Director General, Captain Muhtar Usman, had since been sent to all airline operators.
In the letter, NCAA said it had directed that airlines’ Pilots in Command (PIC) of aircraft are to report to Air Traffic Control (ATC) any suspected case of communicable disease on board their flight in line with Nig. CARs 220.127.116.11.
“In case of a suspected case of communicable disease on board an aircraft, aircrew are required to fill the General Declaration (Gen Dec) and Public Health Passenger Locator forms in line with Nig.CARs 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124, respectively.
“Thereafter, completed forms are to be submitted to the Port Health Services (PHS) of the destination aerodrome. In addition, airlines are to ensure they have on board valid and appropriate number of first aid kits, Universal Precaution Kits (UPKs) and emergency medical kits in line with Nig.CARS 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52,” NCAA said in the directive.
It also directed that airlines are to refresh the knowledge of their crewmembers – flight deck and cabin crew – for improved and sustained proficiency in handling and communication with ATC of any suspected case of communicable disease on board.
“In case of death of a patient, operating airlines should endeavour to contact Port Health Services for clearance before importing human remains into the country. Airlines are to report to NCAA in writing any suspected case of communicable disease on board any flight.
“Similarly, the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) shall immediately communicate to Port Health Services (PHS) any report of a suspected case of communicable disease on board aircraft in line with Nig. CARs 184.108.40.206,” it added.
The agency said it expected strict compliance with the directive and would collaborate with all relevant agencies to prevent the incursion of Ebola or any communicable disease into the country.
Excitement in DR Congo over Ebola New Drugs Breakthrough
Meanwhile, there is excitement in DR Congo over the announcement that two prototype drugs have boosted chances of surviving the dreaded disease.
Prof. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, newly appointed by President Felix Tshisekedi to coordinate the year-long campaign against Ebola, said that out of four confirmed cases of infection in the eastern city of Goma, “two have been cured” after 11 days of treatment.
Expressing his “great joy,” Muyembe said, “This is a strong message for us that Ebola is curable. Today, the drugs are there.”
On Monday, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said two drugs, in a trial of four being tested among Ebola patients in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, had significantly boosted survival rates.
The two drugs, known by their lab names as REGN-EB3 and mAb114, belong to a class of treatments called monoclonal antibodies, which are designed to bind to the virus and neutralise it.
A total of 681 people had been recruited for the trial, which began in November.
Data from 499 patients found that mortality among those who had been given REGN-EB3 fell to 29 per cent compared to a typical death rate of 60-67 per cent among those who had not been treated.
The mortality rate among mAb114 was 34 per cent.
A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the first case of Ebola in the most recent outbreak in eastern DRC was registered on August 1, 2018.
The authorities’ handling of the outbreak came under severe scrutiny last month when four cases emerged in Goma, a city of two million people and a major transport hub.
Tshisekedi appointed Muyembe, a veteran who was part of the team that investigated the very first known outbreak of Ebola in what was then Zaire, in 1976.
Doctors refused to say which drugs were used to treat the two Goma patients, pointing to the need to respect secrecy in medical trials.
Muyembe simply said, “We now have two drugs, mAb114 and REGN-EB3.
“These are the two drugs which we are going to use, because according to the results which we have obtained so far, these are the two drugs which are effective.”
Two other drugs that were also being tested have been excluded from further use in the ongoing epidemic.
They also diminished mortality but did not approach similar thresholds of success.
The epidemic in DR Congo is the deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.