NCDC Alerts Nigerians on Return of Ebola Virus

By Tapre Timine
7 Min Read

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has informed Nigerians to be alert due to the likely return of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD.

This follows the risk assessment by the NCDC-led multi-sectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Technical Working Group (NEVHD TWG), following the outbreak of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus in Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to the Uganda Virus Research Institute, on September 20, 2022, the virus in samples collected from a 24-year-old male who exhibited symptoms of the disease and later died in Mubende District in the Central Region, about 175 kilometres from the capital, Kampala.

On September 29, 2022, the Ugandan Ministry of Health reported 54 cases (35 confirmed and 19 probable), including 25 deaths (seven confirmed and 18 probable).

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Although there had been no single case of the disease reported in the country, according to NCDC, noted Nigeria as being a high risk for the importation of the virus.

The importation would likely come through increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda, especially through Kenya’s Nairobi Airport, a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda.

Again it explained that the likelihood of spread in Nigeria, following importation, was high due to the gatherings and travel associated with politics, the coming Yuletide, also other religious gatherings and festivals during the last few months of the year.

More so, the agency stressed that the risk of importation was high as the extent of the outbreak in Uganda had not yet been ascertained.

NCDC said investigations had shown that some people might have died with similar symptoms which were not reported to the Uganda health authorities. Besides, their burials were not conducted safely to prevent transmission.

The NCDC mentioned that it had heightened surveillance at the Points of Entry (POE) and that despite the risk assessment, the country has the capacity, technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic to respond effectively in case of an outbreak.

It said:

This is exemplified by our successful response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, as well as improvements in our capacity for health emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have the diagnostic capacity to test for the EVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital’s (LUTH’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 (POEs) and others as may be required.

An effective response system is 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.”

Symptoms of the disease include, fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat later followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to the virus, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

The NCDC urged Nigerians to adhere strictly to the preventive protocols adding that the Ebola virus does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or licensed vaccine for prevention

It again said that the death rate is between 41 to 100 per cent.

The protocols follow;

  • Avoid non-essential travel to locations where the outbreak is reported for the moment;
    Avoid direct contact with blood, saliva, vomit, urine, and other bodily fluids of people with suspected or confirmed EVD.

*Call 6232 or other dedicated hotlines by state ministries of health to ensure all persons with suspected symptoms are promptly taken to designated healthcare facilities by the responsible state ministry of health for prompt diagnosis and initiation of supportive treatment.

  • In suspected and/or confirmed EVD cases, direct physical contact should be avoided by ensuring strict isolation, the use of protective gowns, masks, gloves, and safe disposal of needles, beddings, and other contaminated materials.

  • Safe burial practices are recommended for all cases of death from unknown causes, suspected to be EVD or other viral haemorrhagic diseases.

  • The strict practice of standard infection prevention control practices in the healthcare setting for all suspected patients must be always adhered to.

The statement also indicated the amount of measures the government has placed to prevent any outbreak of the disease in the country.

It read;

“The NCDC Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) is now in alert mode. Development of an incident action plan for the first few cases of EVD has commenced.

“POE surveillance has been heightened using the passenger pre-boarding health declaration and screening form in the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) platform.

“Passengers arriving from Uganda and persons who transited in Uganda are being followed up for 21 days of their arrival in Nigeria on their health status. Trained Rapid Response Teams are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak.

“Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs) in States with major POE i.e., Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Rivers State are on standby. A medical countermeasures plan is available.

“Amplification of risk communication and engagement with states and partners to strengthen preparedness activities which include – a review of risk communication protocols, plans, and messages in the event of an outbreak.

“Nigeria has an active infection prevention and control (IPC) programme nationwide with guidelines and training packages developed for health care workers.”

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