The Federal Ministry of Health has stepped up surveillance at all entry points into Nigeria to prevent the spread of Ebola disease into the country, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, has said.
This, he said, is as a result of the Ebola outbreak reported in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The minister, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said the Council ordered steps be taken to keep the outbreak from Nigeria.
He said the development in DRC is of great concern to the Nigerian government.
“FEC has now directed the Federal Ministry of Health to step up emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders, so that we can actually keep Nigerians safe,” he said.
“Part of the new measures to be taken include screening passengers coming into the country. Not only that, we will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from DRC and neigbouring countries. We will also ensure we step up all activities screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unawares.”
Ebola has a tendency of spreading across borders through human migration if not well monitored. In 2014, the disease was imported to Nigeria through a Liberian diplomat who flew into Nigeria in an attempt to get to the US after contacting the disease in Liberia.
As a result of this, eight Nigerians died from the disease and many others were infected, majority of them health workers.
Mr Adewole said over the last one month, DRC recorded 19 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever and lost 16 persons in the cases.
“What is also particularly important was that two blood samples out of the five collected from patients at a particular district on Monday in the DRC were confirmed positive,” he said.
Explaining steps to be taken by the government, the minister said Nigeria will set up an emergency operation centre. This he said would be chaired by Joshua Obasanya, who led the Nigerian team in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014.
He added that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending a team to DRC as part of building capacity for managing the outbreak.
“We want to assure Nigerians that the federal government is concerned about the outbreak and will do everything possible to keep the country safe,” he said.
Also giving an update on the state of public health in Nigeria, Mr Adewole declared the emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak which has been ravaging the country since January is over.
According to him, this essentially implies that the emergency operating centre would be stood down.
“They will still continue surveillance so that if there are cases anywhere in the country we can quickly dectect it and then treat it appropriately,” he added.
Speaking on the ongoing Joint Health Sector Union strike, the minister said government was still negotiating with the union, with Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, leading the negotiation.
He said government expected conclusion on all issues very soon.