IN response to the renewed outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, the Nigerian Government has activated a preparedness plan by setting up the Ebola Preparedness Working Group, EPWG, even as passengers with fever arriving from a county where Ebola has been detected are to be investigated.
Disclosing this in a statement, Technical Assistant, Communications of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Lawal Bakare, said that the Ebola Preparedness Working Group was put together at an emergency meeting convened on Monday by NCDC, to coordinate immediate risk assessment of the situation in the DRC and coordinate the strengthening of prevention and preparedness for any potential introduction of the Ebola virus into Nigeria.
The meeting, chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, with representatives from the Department of Public Health and Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation, WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, US-Centers for Disease Control, the African Field Epidemiology Network and the University of Maryland, Baltimore is to guide the country’s preparedness activities.
Bakare observed that in the coming weeks, the NCDC-led Ebola Preparedness Working Group will provide regular updates as necessary on the outbreak in the DRC and provide information on how to protect Nigerians and Nigeria from Ebola. According to the NCDC, the risk of introduction of the Ebola virus into Nigeria is considered to be highest through its air and land borders. “Therefore, Port Health Authorities have been advised to intensify existing screening procedures at all ports of entry with first responder teams being put on alert.
In addition, there will be an increased focus on reinforcing principles of infection prevention and control to all healthcare workers across the country. “Nigeria’s response to Ebola in 2014 was recognised globally for its speed and efficiency and the NCDC and its partners are leveraging on this success in its preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to the unlikely situation of the introduction of the virus to Nigeria.” In a related development, the Minister of Health, Prof.Isaac Adewole, has directed that passengers with fever arriving from a county where Ebola has been detected should be taken for further investigation.
Adewole, who gave the directive while inspecting thermal screening machines located at the Port Health stand of Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, said people should be free to go about their lawful business, but to report any signs or symptoms of fever to the nearest health facility. The minister was at the Airport on assessment tour to ensure that the screening machines were functioning perfectly as the country steps up surveillance in detecting fever of any kind. “We want to assure Nigerians that we have never stopped screening people, it has been going on at the International Wing of all the airports in the country, although passengers may not have noticed it.
“There is no reason to panic, everything is under control, if there is a need to screen local passengers we would do that but for now, we are concentrating on passengers on international travels,” Adewole said. Earlier, the minister had a meeting with the Airport Manager, Mr Sani Muhammed, who assured the minister of the readiness of all the airport staff to work together in ensuring that Ebola does not come in the country. Director, Port Health Services, Dr. Hassan Garba, said a sophisticated thermal camera already installed at the airport captures all arriving passengers with or without their knowledge, anybody showing red on the camera, would be questioned.