“Nigeria is in danger” of Ebola virus, the health minister said.
The Ebola Virus Disease, which has caused the death of scores of people in Central and West Africa may be heading towards Nigeria, the Federal Government has said.
Over 100 people have died from the disease in Guinea, while about 10 deaths have also been recorded in Liberia. Mali, Ghana, and other West African countries have also reported cases of the disease. The disease is believed to be spread through physical contact or contact with fluid of infected persons.
The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that it expects the disease to continue in West Africa for the next few months.
Speaking to journalists after the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC, on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, however, said no case of the disease has been reported in Nigeria.
“Like you pointed out, Ebola has been moving eastward towards Nigeria. We are already facing danger from Central African Republic, even with what is happening in Congo; people are also migrating to Chad and Cameroon are also in our borders.
“So Nigeria is in danger,” the minister said.
Mr. Chukwu said the federal government will now do more to educate Nigerians on the Ebola virus.
“We have recently said that in addition to the leaflets that we are producing for Lassa and other hemorrhagic fever, we will now emphasis Ebola fever.
“As I speak to you, we have already approved for jingles to be produced in various languages; produced for Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to be aired on Radio, TV and newspaper adverts.
“Then we are working with all groups, just like we are doing for polio, religious bodies, communities, traditional rulers and the media, which is most important in this venture. You (media) will help us to play your role by educating Nigerians,” he said.
The Health Minister also said there is no vaccine for the disease yet and “so it’s not a question of government has not produced vaccines for Ebola or Lassa fever.
“If there were vaccines, government will certainly buy a stock and keep. There is no specific treatment.”
Mr. Chukwu explained that both Ebola and Lassa fever could be spread through animals.
“We know what spreads infection for Lassa is a special type of rat in Nigeria; the ones for Ebola are bats that even some Nigerians see it as bush meat.
“And bats eat fruits as well and so sometimes if you go and pluck fruits that they have contaminated with the virus so someone can get infected.”
The minister advised Nigerians to take their personal hygiene seriously.
“So all the things we said still apply. Personal hygiene: make sure that after every ceremony you wash your hands.
“The first thing I do after returning from work is to wash my hands before hugging my children or anybody; it is very important. The second thing is that before you eat wash your hands again, the fruits must be washed, those things we eat from must be washed.
“When people have fever, we will soon review our adverts for things like anti-malaria because they still say if you have fever take this for three days if you don’t improve go and see your doctor but we are changing all that because now if you wait three days for Ebola you are dead.
“So all of them will continue and we will produce a specific one for Ebola”.
The health minister said though Ebola virus had become a threat in West Africa, it is not the only threat.
“Yes, Ebola is a real threat. It is true that as at today we have not been able to report a single case of Ebola.
“But mind you, Ebola is not the only threat, it is an added threat because West Africa never had a single case of Ebola until this year, it was more in Central Africa.
“But now we have added it to the ones that are even more native to West Africa which is Lassa fever.
“Some of these viruses belonging to a group that causes similar diseases like yellow fever, which for 18 years now we have not had a single case; but 18 years ago it devastated Nigeria. It is also the cause of what is called hemorrhagic fever” he said.
He said Lassa fever is more common in Nigeria, particularly in northern part of Edo State.
“They record a case every week and it is very deadly,” Mr. Chukwu said.
Plateau State on Wednesday said one person may have died from Lassa fever in the state.
The Plateau State epidemiologist, Raymond Juriet, said three other cases of the same disease are under laboratory examination.