26 May 2017

Nigeria Not Prepared for Another Ebola Outbreak - Tomori

Contrary to assertion by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the country is better prepared for another possible outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) now than in 2014, a virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said Nigeria is not prepared for another outbreak.

Tomori, former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) and Vice Chancellor, Redeemers University, who had worked with the WHO, said: "If Ebola strikes in Nigeria, can we rapidly and effectively control it as we did in 2014? My answer is more a 'No' than a 'Yes'.

"The problem is with the poor state of our disease control system - detection, reporting, sample collection and laboratory diagnosis. It is appreciated that the NCDC is making strenuous efforts to correct this national disaster. However, it will take additional support, funds and political commitment, to repair the years of damage we have inflicted on our disease surveillance system."

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had told The Guardian: "The NCDC has developed a blueprint to build the Centre's capacity to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies.

"We do this by the prevention, early detection and response to diseases of public health importance. We carry out surveillance of infectious diseases, respond to outbreaks and mitigate the impact of health emergencies."

However, the Federal Government had, last week, through the NCDC activated a preparedness plan by setting up the Ebola Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) in response to the renewed outbreak of Ebola in the DRC.

Assistant, Communications at NCDC, Dr. Lawal Bakare, told journalists that the EPWG was put together at an emergency meeting convened on Monday (last week) by the Centre 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.

Also, to effectively support the government in a rapid response to the EVD outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and possible spread to other parts of the continent as witnessed in 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners are urgently requesting for $10.5 million (N4 billion) as initial six-month budget.

The WHO, said with this support they can implement measures to control the outbreak: early isolation of patients to prevent transmission at home and in the community; early detection of new Ebola cases through close monitoring of contacts and isolation of contacts when they show symptoms and; safe burial of the deceased to reduce transmission from contact with dead bodies.

The Minister of Public Health of the DRC had requested WHO's support to strengthen the response to the outbreak, and coordinate the support of major United Nations (UN), Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and International Organisations, and partners in the Global Outbreaks Alert and Response Network.

According to the WHO, funding is urgently needed to ensure that WHO and partners can effectively support the Government to implement activities in the following areas as part of the joint rapid response.


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