By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Ninety three days after the American Liberia Patrick Sawyer imported the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD into Nigeria, the nation is officially Ebola-free.
Announcing the declaration yesterday, the World Health Organisation said 42 days had passed since the nation last reported a case. By the time the last case was reported on September 5, 2014, Nigeria had recorded 19 cases with eight deaths and 11 survivors.
Findings by Good Health Weekly, revealed that early preparation, proper coordination and a unified response and implementation plan, were crucial to the nation’s success in winning the war.
In what was described as by the WHO as “world-class epidemiological detective work”, Nigeria’s immediate and rapid response to the Ebola threat was triggered off with identification of the index (first case), Patrick Sawyer, and subsequent isolation at the First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende in Lagos.
Public health emergency
First was the declaration of the Ebola out break as a public health emergency in the country. As a follow up, the Federal government through the Federal Ministry of Health, and in collaboration with the Lagos State government, set up an effective overall coordinating Ebola Emergency Operations Centre, EOC.
The response team comprised of the FMOH, WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). private companies, UNICEF, and the Lagos state and Rivers State health ministries, among others.
The training of local doctors and other responders was carried out with despatch even as adverts and requests for qualified medical staff were issued regularly to the public. Each suspected Ebola case was thoroughly investigated and treated on merit.
A robust contact tracing system in Lagos and Port Harcourt ensured that virtually every contact of all reported Ebola cases was identified, tracked down and closely monitored. The dedicated follow-up, supervision and regulated public enlightenment mechanism was deployed to manage the panic caused by the Ebola outbreak.
Managing the public fear and anxiety was one of the main challenges of the response, especially as it was the first time Nigerians were witnessing such outbreak
Sustained social mobilisation on the warning signs and prevention methods in the form of social-media messages, were deployed to improve education and awareness and also to demystify the myths surrounding Ebola.
There was heightened vigilance and screening at the nation’s borders which were kept open but screening of inbound and outbound passengers was stepped up significantly, even as preparations were being made to increase facility and manpower capacity in the event of more patients.
Reacting to the declaration of Nigeria as Ebola free nation, President, Association of General Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, AGPMPN, Dr. Anthony Omolola said it was welcome.
“WHO declaration is a welcome development for our country and it shows that when we are committed to doing anything we can do it well. Our effort in curtaining Ebola has remain a sample to the world. We need to commend all the health workers, the government in the manner in which the situation was reacted to and also the media need to be commended for their enlightenment role and dissemination of information at appropriate time.
“As the WHO is declaring us free, we should not forget those that had sacrificed their lives in ensuring that the country did not experience greater calamity,” he pointed out.
Corroborating their views, Immediate Past President, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, said: “This shows that if the right support is given to the health sector and the players who are responsible for leadership play their part, Nigeria can begin to make move towards strengthening our healthcare system and all other countries are now learning from Nigeria’s experience, which shows that there are actually potentials that can be explore if there are some level of sincerity and leadership commitment. So the development is laudable and I think Nigeria can begin to look at other areas of healthcare and not just be responding to crisis situation alone.”
Also speaking on the development, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Pharm Olumide Akintayo said it was well deserved but cautioned against the country resting on its oars. “For once, response was very prompt and highly commendable. I have no doubt that this is recognition is merited but it is not time to go and sleep.
We must continue to put on the table, the finest tenets of professionalism.”“Akintayo who worried over the porous nature of the nation’s borders called for even greater alertness. “Let us give kudos to the Federal government and the Lagos State government. However, we must continue our surveillance and monitor people coming in from the endemic zones, namely Sierra Leone and Liberia to a large extent.”
The Immediate Past Deputy President, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, Comrade Rasheed Tonade noted that for WHO to say Nigeria is Ebola free, judging from the fact that there has not been any case of Ebola in the last three weeks was a welcome development. “I can agree to it because available statistics have proven that.
There is nothing like Ebola now in Nigeria. We are only hearing about Ebola in US. I believe Nigeria should be declared Ebola free. We are up to the task but we should expand our treatment strategies to forestall future occurrence or outbreak as a nation. Our seaports and airports and other borders should be regularly and effectively monitored not only for Ebola but for other diseases that people may bring in from either land borders or any other border.”