From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has raised the alarm that the chances of Nigeria recording Ebola virus outbreak are high.
NCDC, in a statement, on Monday, explained that its National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Disease Technical Working Group met on the 26th of September, 2022, to assess the risk of importation of Ebola virus into Nigeria and the potential impact to inform in-country preparedness activities.
“Based on available data and risk assessment conducted, Nigeria is at high risk of importation of the virus. 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, as well as the additional risk from other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda, should case arise in other countries in the region,” NCDC said.
NCDC Director General Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, who signed the statement, confirmed that the outputs from the risk assessment are being used to initiate preparedness activities in-country, adding that several measures have been put in place to prevent and mitigate the impact of a potential Ebola virus outbreak in Nigeria.
He confirmed that the NCDC’s Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) has also been activated, adding that the development of an incident action plan for the first few cases of Ebola has commenced
He also confirmed that surveillance has been heightened using the passenger pre-boarding health declaration and screening form in the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) platform, and passengers arriving from Uganda and persons who transited in Uganda are being followed up for 21 days after they arrived in Nigeria for their health status.
He also added that trained rapid response teams are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak, and all State Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs) are in alert mode, as well as medical countermeasure plans that have been made available.
Dr Adetifa said the NCDC has amplified risk communication and engagement with states and partners to strengthen preparedness activities which include a review of risk communication protocols, plans, and messages in the event of an outbreak.
NCDC, however, explained that the Ebola virus can be transmitted via direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from the virus, and it can enter the body stream through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. This can also be spread through contact with objects contaminated by infected persons as well as direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected fruit bats, monkeys, or chimpanzees.
On signs and symptoms, NCDC said that just like other types of Ebola virus, people infected with the Sudan strain cannot spread the disease until the development of symptoms which may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus but are typically 8 to 10 days on average.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function, internal and external bleeding.
To prevent the spread of Ebola, the NCDC advised members of the public to wash their hands frequently using soap and water or use hand sanitisers when soap and water are not readily available. Avoid physical contact with anyone who has symptoms of an infection with an unknown diagnosis.
Healthcare workers were also advised to always adhere to standard precautions. This includes the use of personal protective equipment always when handling patients and always maintaining a high index of suspicion.