A good personal hygiene is essential

Following incidences of the Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), last week stepped up preparation against possible outbreak in the country. In a public health advisory by its Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, NCDC said the outbreak of the Sudan strain in Uganda, last September risked being imported into Nigeria. “Based on available data and risk assessment conducted, Nigeria is at high risk of importation of the virus,” said Adetifa. “This risk is due to the large volume of air travel between Nigeria and Uganda and the mixing of passengers, especially at the regional travel hubs of Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Kigali airports, and the additional risk from other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda, should cases arise in other countries in the region.”

We recall that the first Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2015 infected 28,616 people and claimed 11,310 lives. The current outbreak in Uganda, coming few days before the EVD in the Democratic Republic of Congo was declared over, has already claimed 34 lives with more than a hundred others infected. The previous reports of Ebola infections in Uganda also triggered an alert in neighbouring countries as Goma, a major transport hub and a border town between the Congo and Rwanda is a popular destination point and flight route for many Nigerians.

 Nigeria’s index case of the outbreak in 2015 was a Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer who flew into the country carrying the virus unchecked – a single act that caused the deaths of eight persons and wreaked enormous economic havoc.

It is in the bid to avoid another outbreak that medical experts are calling on the federal government to increase the surveillance system across all borders in the country, particularly because Ebola is deadlier than COVID-19. According to Dr. Moses Adewumi, a virologist at the University of Ibadan, “We don’t have to wait for alert. We are already in a belt. Uganda is a neigbouring country and we all know that infectious diseases can’t be stopped by boundaries.”

Ebola is a communicable disease and has the risk of international spread. The disease can be spread through human to human contact, through travels, migrations and the movement of animals. It has similar symptoms like malaria: fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, etc. The virus spreads by contact with infected blood and body fluids and it takes between two days to three weeks before the complete symptoms manifest.

Many Nigerians and indeed the international community commended the federal government and the health authorities for their swift response in dealing with the outbreak in 2015. The appropriateness of the response saved the lives of many Nigerians. But same cannot be said of the outbreak of meningitis thereafter, where the health authorities were evidently caught unawares. That epidemic claimed more than 1000 lives.

Thus, notwithstanding the preparations of the authorities to contain Ebola, we urge Nigerians to continue to observe good hygienic behaviour that includes regular handwashing and general environmental cleanliness. The sanitisers that disappeared from the banks’ entrances, schools, offices; the thermometers that had been withdrawn from the local and international and local airports as well as other border entries should be restored as a means of constantly monitoring people until the viral disease is exterminated.

We cannot afford another Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.

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