The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has assured Nigerians that chances of the Ebola Virus being imported from Uganda or Democratic Republic of Congo are low as there are no direct routes from those countries to Nigeria.
NCDC, in a press statement released on Sunday, said this conclusion was reached following a preliminary risk assessment conducted by the agency on the overall risk of the importation of the disease into the country.
The statement was signed by NCDC, Director, Prevention and Programmes’ Coordination, Joshua Obasanya.
Mr Obasanya said NCDC is monitoring the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and recent cases in Uganda.
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.
Due to the risk of international spread, it is important for continual evaluation of Nigeria’s potential risk amidst regional trade and flight route within the region.
However, Mr Obasanya said the Nigeria Ebola preparedness team, coordinated by the NCDC, has conducted a preliminary risk assessment following the recent confirmation of EVD in Kasese District of Uganda.
Mr Obasanya said based on available data, the overall risk of the importation of EVD to Nigeria is low.
He said this is also in line with the World health Organisation’s (WHO) risk assessment for Nigeria.
“There are no direct commercial flights and no known direct trade routes to Nigeria from Uganda. The current transmission pathway of the disease in Uganda is through unmanned land borders and further away from the capitals of both Uganda and Nigeria.
“The NCDC is working closely with colleagues at the WHO Nigeria Country Office, who are in close contact with WHO African Region and Ministries of Health in Uganda and DR Congo, to determine the risk of spread to other African countries. Our multi-sectoral technical working group has heightened situational awareness on the ongoing outbreak in both countries,” he said.
He however said the team has put in place several measures to ensure adequate preparedness.
“Our national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), situated at the Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) in NCDC Abuja, is functional and currently in Alert Mode for EVD.
“Our team of national first responders are on standby and ready for deployment within 24 hours when the need arises. Public Health EOCs (PHEOCs) in States where major points of entry are located (Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt) are also on standby. We have improved point-of-entry screenings in major airports; the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health is on alert and has heightened screening measures at entry points at our ports, he said.
Mr Obasanya also added that designated treatment centres and isolation facilities have been identified, in case there is a reported case of Ebola in the country.
“Nigeria currently has in-country capacity for the diagnosis of EVD within NCDC’s National Reference Laboratories. Our risk communications technical working group has developed an All Infectious Diseases Risk Communication Plan, and coordinates with a network of media houses and Health Educators in all States for prompt information dissemination.”
There are currently ongoing Infection Prevention Control (IPC) programs nationwide, including the development of new guidelines, as well as training packages for health care workers to mitigate transmission.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been experiencing an Ebola outbreak since 2018. The disease, which has killed over 1,500 people in the DRC, was transported to Uganda last week, by a five year old boy.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health had confirmed an outbreak of EVD in Kasese District, at the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The index case was a 5-year old boy who fell ill after a visit to Mabalako Health Zone in Democratic Republic of the Congo to attend the burial of his grand-father, a confirmed EVD case, who died in the community on June 1.
12 days after, the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has confirmed three cases of EVD and one death recorded.
So far, eight contacts have been identified and are being closely monitored. Uganda has, however, prepared for a likely importation of the disease into the country and as such, embarked on a ring vaccination for high risk contacts and frontline healthcare workers in the country.
Following the recent report in Uganda, WHO in a recent statement, said although the risk of spread to countries outside the region remains low, all neighbouring countries should be alert.
WHO said the cluster of cases in Uganda is not unexpected and the rapid response and initial containment is a testament to the importance of preparedness in neighbouring countries.
“At the same time, the exportation of cases into Uganda is a reminder that, as long as this outbreak continues in DRC, there is a risk of spread to neighbouring countries,” it said.
Nigeria, in 2014, recorded an outbreak of Ebola in the country. This was a small part of the epidemic Ebola Virus outbreak which began in Guinea. The disease was imported into the country by a Liberian who landed in the Lagos airport and was rushed to the hospital.
Though the early diagnosis of the disease led to quick intervention, unfortunately, some Nigerian health workers including the doctor who diagnosed the patient, died, as a result of the disease.
Ebola Virus Disease, also known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF) or simply Ebola, is a viral haemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by Ebola viruses.
It is caused by an infection with one of five known Ebola virus species, four of which can cause disease in humans.
The virus can be transmitted via direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD. The virus can enter the body stream through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth and 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 or primates.
To prevent the spread of Ebola, health care workers have been advised to ensure universal precautions at all times. This includes the use of personal protective equipment always, when handling patients.
NCDC has also advice members of the public to adhere to the following precautions:
· Wash hands frequently using soap and water – use hand sanitizers when soap and water is not readily available.
· Avoid direct handling of dead wild animals.
· Avoid physical contact with anyone who has possible symptoms of an infection with an unknown diagnosis.
· Make sure fruit and vegetables are properly washed and peeled before you eat them.