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Return of Ebola and the need for vigilance

On the 12th of May 2017, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) received formal notification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) of an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  with three people reported dead.  The Nigerian Medical Association immediately issued a statement directing all Nigerian health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion by screening all fevers for Ebola and other haemorrhagic fevers.

Our first encounter with Ebola was in 2014 after a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, arrived the Lagos airport and brought the virus into Nigeria, leaving in his wake many casualties, including some of the best Nigerian medical doctors, other health workers, and individuals. Shocked by its devastation, Nigeria attacked the virus with the ferocity it required and was able to completely annihilate it.

Ebola is an infectious and frequently fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding. It spreads through contact with infected body fluids.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and muscle aches. Patients with more severe cases show bleeding under the skin, internal organs or even from bodily orifices like the mouth, ears, and eyes.

During the last outbreak in 2014-2015 in West Africa, more than 11,000 people died, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. The Federal and state governments combined efforts with a highly mobilised citizenry to eradicate the scourge, though not without casualties, among whom were late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and a couple of other staff of First Consultants Medical Clinic, Lagos.

Following the recent outbreak,  Nigerians need not panic. All we have to do is to get back into the mode of combined efforts and observance of the rules that helped us  overcome the last outbreak.  Members of the public should also observe a high level of personal hygiene such as regular hand washing and report all cases of fevers to the nearest health facility.

An Ebola Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) has been set up, with a call  on the Federal Government to remain vigilant and strengthen its response team at the borders and other national routes of entry.  Screening of all inbound passengers into Nigeria had commenced at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and other international airports in Nigeria as a preventive measure against the outbreak.

Nigeria’s porous borders, especially the ones with neighbouring countries like Benin Republic, Niger and Cameroon which are the main gateways to other West African countries, should be strengthened. The Customs and Immigration Services should be particularly at alert. Sensitisation of the public on personal hygiene and cleanliness should be effectively managed. Hospitals, schools and other public institutions should be armed with hand sanitisers and hand washing systems at their entrances.

Indeed, the return of the disease calls for vigilance by all Nigerians


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