NCDC Opens Referral Laboratories for Measles, Rubella, Yellow Fever

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has formally opened additional three new laboratories to add to the national yellow fever, measles, rubella laboratory network in the country.

NCDC is the government agency with the mandate to lead the prevention, detection, and control of communicable diseases. Its functions are to prevent, detect, investigate and control communicable diseases of national and international public health importance.

While activating the laboratories recently, NCDC said it was making further efforts towards full getting accreditation for the facilities to serve as reference laboratory for yellow fever.

The three new laboratories are the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; and NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.

NCDC formally activated the reference laboratories at a ceremony in Abuja yesterday with a media inspection of the laboratory located at Gaduwa District in Abuja.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday to mark the activation of the disease control laboratories, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said the aim of setting up the high-tech referral laboratories wasto ensure prompt and timely response to disease epidemic in the country.

Ihekweazu said the aim was to build Nigeria’s capacity in line with global standards. “We are officially activating three new laboratories, a necessary addition to our existing laboratory network for yellow fever, measles and rubella.

“These laboratories are also part of the global WHO laboratory network. The new laboratories in Edo, Enugu and the FCT will improve our coverage and ensure timely detection and response”.

In 2017, Nigeria adapted the Eliminate Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy, a global initiative led by WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to support at-risk countries in strengthening their surveillance and laboratory capacity to respond to yellow fever cases and outbreaks. The strategy is also to support countries including Nigeria, in the elimination of yellow fever outbreaks.

Towards achieving the goals in the EYE strategy, the NCDC boss said Nigeria has increased the number of laboratories with the capacity to test for yellow fever from four to six.

He explained that the laboratory in theUniversity of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo State is intended to serve the South-south states, while the one at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu State is to take care of incidence in the South-east States.

NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Gaduwa, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will serve the people in North-east States, while the laboratory at the Maitama District Hospital in the FCT is to handle cases in the North-central states.

Also the Yusuf Dansoho Memorial Hospital, Kaduna is to carter for the North-west states while the Central Public Health Laboratory, Lagos treat health cases from the South-west states.

Speaking at the event, the Officer-In-Charge of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Clement Peter Lasuba reiterated the commitment of WHO and partners to support the strengthening of Nigeria’s public health laboratory.

He said: ‘We are very proud of this milestone and fully recognise NCDC’s leadership in this regard. The inclusion of these three new laboratories will strengthen the national diagnostic capacity; a critical step for Nigeria’s health security. WHO will continue to support the development of public health laboratory services in Nigeria.”

Representing the tertiary institutions, the Chief Medical Director of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Prof. Darlington Obaseki promised to ensure that the standards required are maintained for full functionality.

Also, the Chief Medical Director of the University, Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Dr. Obinna Onodugo, represented by Mrs.Chioma Benjamin Puja also expressed his optimism in the value that the laboratory will provide in serving the South-east region of the country and reducing dependence on other laboratories.