FG urges Nigerians not to panic as Ebola resurfaces in Congo

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Nigeria has been placed on red alert by the Federal government following report of fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), declared an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, disclosing that at least one person had been confirmed dead due to the virus in the country’s north-east.

Nigeria suffered the Ebola outbreak in July, 2014, when Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian American flew from Liberia to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and died five days later.

Nigeria was however able to curtail the virus and was subsequently declared Ebola free by WHO.

Due to recent developments now; the resurfacing of the virus in Congo, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole has called for heightened vigilance and intensified awareness efforts on the symptoms of hemorrhagic fevers.

In a statement signed by the Director, Media and Public Relations, Boade Akinola on behalf of the Minister, it was noted that health care providers and the general public must immediately report any sign of the illness to public health officials immediately.

Part of the statement read “The Federal government in response to the announcement by the World Health Organization on confirmed cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has directed port health officials to step up inspection activities and to report any sick person or suspects to ensure that the state epidemiologist in the states where they are present is immediately alerted and relevant tests conducted.”

“The symptoms to look out for include; fever, weakness, dizziness and muscle aches. Patients with more severe cases show the bleeding under the skin, internal organs or even from bodily orifices like the mouth, eyes and ears.

“Nigerians are urged not to panic as the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) is on ground and equipped to secure the health of citizens. The agency has for a while now been strengthening state capacities to detect, manage and respond to hemorrhagic fevers including Lassa fever. ”

“The health minister directs all Nigerian health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion by screening all fevers for Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers.

The Minister called for immediate social mobilisation and media awareness efforts via TV, radio, print and social media in all states and also charged the state health ministries to strengthen their supervision services.

The Head of Communications at the NCDC, Dr Lawal Bakare said the country will not be placing a travel ban on Democratic Republic of Congo, stating that there was no cause for alarm as Congo DR has suffered several outbreaks and has been able to overcome it.

According to him, there is no need for panic as the NCDC is quite aware of recent developments and is in touch with appropriate international agencies.

“We are getting prepared”, he stated.

“People don’t need to panic, Congo has had outbreaks in the past, this is about their eighth outbreak since 1976, even during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, they had one and came out of it ahead of some other African countries.”

“In terms of further development, we are going to have our official meeting on Monday from which we will be able to give proper directive. We are at alert however, we are following up on the development.”

“Nigerians should be calm, outbreak in Congo is not new, surveillance at the airports is still on, Nigeria will not stop people from traveling to OR from the affected country as it is against international health regulations, but people coming from Congo will be screened specially.”

Prof Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, also encouraged Nigerians to observe a high level of personal hygiene which include, regular hand washing and to also report all cases of fever to the nearest health facility.

The management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has also assured Nigerians of adequate surveillance at the nation’s airports.

Henrietta Yakubu, FAAN’s acting general manager, in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Saturday, said there was no direct flight from Congo to Nigeria.

Yakubu also stated that there were preventive measures available at the airports.

She noted that the authority had informed all port health officials to increase surveillance at the airports and to be at alert.

“We don’t have direct flights from Congo, we only have from Rwanda but I want to assure members of the public that we still have all preventive measures in place at our airports.”

“There are sanitizers at our arrivals with the scanning apparatus called Thermal scanners being installed by the Port Health Services.”

“The scanners have camera monitors that display pictures aside the capturing of temperature.”

“Passengers still fill that form to ensure that everybody arriving the country through our airports are not potential carriers of deadly diseases.”

“The port health officials are always at alert and we will also inform them of the need to increase their surveillance.”

She reiterated that there was no cause for alarm.

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Joan Obasi is a journalism intern working with HealthNewsNG.com in Lagos, Nigeria. She covers developments in the healthcare sector. She can be reached via joan@healthnewsng.com

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