The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has called on the National Assembly to pass into law the bill establishing the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
“This will go a long way in fighting the rapid spread of disease outbreaks in the country, especially Lassa fever,” the NMA President, Mike Ogirima, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Last November, the Chairman, Senate committee on primary health care and communicable diseases, Mao Ohuabunwa, said a bill for an Act to establish NCDC will be passed by the National Assembly before the end of 2017.
The bill has gone through first and second readings at the house and also received overwhelming support of health experts; but it is yet to be passed into law.
“This is just a follow up to our presentation in the national assembly when the public hearing was made. We are not shifting ground, we are only reemphasizing our stand. This bill should be passed as a matter of urgency,” Mr Ogirima said.
The NMA president said the association considers it unacceptable that every suspected case of Lassa fever is transferred to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State by road in poorly equipped ambulance. He called on the federal government to ensure that the long overdue virology centres to be supported with public health reference laboratories are commissioned in the six geo-political zones of the country without further delay.
“There was a plan to set up at least one virology centre in each geo-political zone but only two are functioning now and we are saying that government should implement its policies. Nigeria is too big for just two centre,” Mr. Ogirima noted.
He said the NMA holds the belief that with effective implementation of evidence-based infection prevention and control measures through adequate funding of institutions and programmes, Nigeria would celebrate the end of Lassa fever and others.
The current outbreak of Lassa fever has affected 15 states with 105 laboratory confirmed cases, three probable cases and 31 deaths.
According to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in 2018 alone, Nigeria recorded 77 cases of Lassa fever.
The cases were in Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Ebonyi, Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Osun and Lagos states.
Ten health care workers were affected in four states; seven in Ebonyi with one each in Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue states.