Ebola virus continues to loom in some parts of Africa as new instances were recorded in Uganda. In a recent public health advisory held, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) said as of 29 October, the Uganda Ministry of Health had reported 128 confirmed Ebola cases and 34 deaths since it officially declared the outbreak of the Sudan strain of the virus on 20 September 2022. Following the rising cases of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Uganda, Nigeria has warned against the spread of the virus into the country.
This risk is due to the large volume of air travel between Nigeria and Uganda and the mixing of passengers, especially at the regional travel hubs of Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Kigali airports. There are additional risks from other neighboring countries that share a direct border with Uganda. The latest development results from the meeting held by the NCDC’s National Emerging Viral Hemorrhagic Disease Technical Working Group on 26 September 2022 to assess the risk of importation of EVD to Nigeria.
Necessary health agencies are on alert mode in case of emergency.
NCDC said from the outputs of this risk assessment; several measures have been emplaced to prevent and mitigate the impact of a potential EVD outbreak in Nigeria, noting that its Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) is now in alert mode and the development of an incident action plan for the first few cases of EVD has commenced. It added that POE surveillance had been amplified by utilizing the passenger pre-boarding health declaration and screening form in the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) platform.
The agency has also made it known that travelers arriving from Uganda or who transited in Uganda are being observed for 21 days after they arrive in Nigeria for their health status. Trained Rapid Response Teams and all state Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs) are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak. It further states that anyone in Nigeria who has recently been to, or transited through Uganda within the past 21 days, and is experiencing symptoms like fever, muscular ache, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruises should promptly call 6232, or state ministry of health hotlines for assessment and testing.
Travellers with and without symptoms are urged to take precautions.
In addition, NCDC said such persons should not visit any health facilities alone but instead would be paid a visit at home by dedicated responders for assessment and moved through the designated transport arrangement to the designated treatment centre when required. This is done to avoid the further spread of the virus through the shared transport system (public or private). Intending travelers to Nigeria with the above-stated symptoms before departure should endeavor not to travel to Nigeria but call to report promptly to Port Health Authorities or designated health authorities in the country of departure for testing and care.
Inbound travelers to Nigeria with a recent travel history to or through Uganda without symptoms on departure, but who become unwell while on transit, are required to avoid contact with people and report to the Port Health Services on arrival at the point of entry to Nigeria. And also, NCDC added that travelers with a travel history to Uganda who show no symptoms on arrival, should provide accurate information on the NITP platform to ensure follow-up from health workers, and that if any of the symptoms develop anytime within 21 days of arrival in Nigeria, please self-isolate immediately by staying indoors.
NCDC issues preventive cautions against the virus.
To prevent the virus outbreak in Nigeria, The Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health has scaled up the screening of passengers returning from Uganda at POEs. Furtherly, NCDC has advised the citizens and residents to avoid unnecessary travel to Uganda until public health authorities have determined the outbreak to be contained. If unavoidable, travelers are advised to avoid contact with obviously sick persons or suspected Ebola patients. It also urged Nigerians to wash their hands frequently using soap and water or hand sanitizers, adding that healthcare workers should always use personal protective equipment when handling patients.