From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), said on Friday, that it has activated its strengthened systems in response to recent outbreak of Sudan strain of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Uganda.
NCDC said that though, the virus has not been detected in Nigeria, but the chances of the outbreak extending to Nigeria is very high due to frequent travel between Nigeria and Uganda through Kenya.
NCDC Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, in a statement on Friday, said the NCDC-led multi-sectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Technical Working Group (NEVHD TWG) working with partners and stakeholders has conducted a rapid risk assessment to guide in-country preparedness activities.
He explained: “Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as high for the fact that the Sudan Ebola Virus does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or licensed vaccine for prevention.
“The extent of the outbreak in Uganda has not yet been ascertained as investigations have shown that some persons may have died with similar symptoms which were not reported to health authorities. In addition, their burials were not conducted safely to prevent transmission.”
He maintained that the likelihood of importation to Nigeria is high due to the increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda, especially through Kenya’s Nairobi airport which is a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda.
“The likelihood of spread in Nigeria following importation is high due to the gatherings and travel associated with politics, the coming yuletide as well as other religious gatherings and festivals during the last few months of the year,” he added.
The NCDC boss assured Nigerians that despite the risk assessment, Nigeria has the capacity, technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic, to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak, as was exemplified by the successful response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, as well as improvements in capacity for health emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that Nigeria has the diagnostic capacity to test for the EVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital’s Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology Laboratory. “However, diagnostic capacity will be scaled up to other laboratories in cities with important Points of Entry (POE) and others as may be required.”
He also confirmed that an effective response system has been put in place with the availability of control capacities (trained rapid response teams, and an effective infection prevention and control programme) to limit the risk of spread in the event of a single imported case.
“Currently, no case of EVD has been reported in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the Nigerian government through NCDC’s multisectoral NEVHD TWG has put several measures in place to prevent and prepare for immediate control of any outbreak of the disease in-country,” he assured.