By Adedayo Akinwale
The House of Representatives has called on the Ministry of Health to increase surveillance at points of entry to Nigeria in order to respond to any outbreak of Ebola coming from neighbouring countries, especially Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It said it is on record that in the last one year, the country has experienced two waves of infections and recorded a lot of fatalities, adding that the country’s health institutions have been stretched beyond its capacity and cannot afford to witness another outbreak of the dreaded virus.
The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance on the need to create immediate public awareness and preparedness to combat any possible outbreak of Ebola moved at plenary on Wednesday by Hon. Unyime Idem.
Moving the motion, the lawmaker recalled that Ebola was reported and confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 25th March, 2014 in West African countries as a small part of the epidemic which originated in Guinea and represents the first outbreak of the disease globally.
Idem said the suspected cases were soon reported in the neighbouring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He further recalled that the index case in Nigeria was a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who flew from Liberia to Nigeria’s most populous city of Lagos on 20th July, 2014.
The lawmaker added that Sawyer was reported to be violently ill upon arriving at the airport and died five days later.
Idem stressed that in response, the federal government observed all of Sawyer’s contacts for signs of infection and increased surveillance at all entry points to the country.
He noted that on October 9, 2014, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) acknowledged Nigeria’s positive role in controlling the effort to contain the Ebola outbreak and praised the staff of the Ebola Emergency Centre, who coordinated the management of cases, containment of outbreaks and treatment protocols in Nigeria.
Idem stressed that WHO declared the feat “a piece of world-class epidemiological detective work and spectacular success story” and Nigeria was officially declared Ebola free on October 20, 2014 after no new active cases were reported in the follow-up contacts.
The lawmaker said unfortunately, on February 7, 2021, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had again announced a resurface of a new case of the Ebola virus, months after the outbreak was declared over in the region.
Idem said in the same vein, on Sunday, February 14, 2021, Guinea’s Ministry of Health also declared an Ebola outbreak, following the mysterious death of three persons.
Against this background, the House urged the federal government, through the Ministry of Information, to create awareness on the deadly virus.
It added: “Mandate the federal government through the Ministry of Health to enhance surveillance at points of entry to respond to any suspected outbreak of Ebola coming from the neighbouring countries, especially Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
It also mandated the Ministry of Health to work with the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) and WHO on strategies to bring the Ebola outbreak under control and provide regular updates on preparedness, containment and response measures.