Virologists and epidemiologists in the country have called on federal and state governments to strengthen public health surveillance across the borders and port services following the outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda.
The experts, who spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH called for increased awareness and urged that flights from areas where the virus had been reported should be monitored.
A Professor of Medical Virology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Sunday Omilabu, described the virus as deadlier than COVID-19.
According to him, the fatality rate of Ebola is about 80 per cent compared to COVID-19 which he said is only about two per cent.
Omilabu, who is also the Director, Human and Zoonotic Virology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, urged Nigerians to be cautious and alert.
On September 20, 2022, Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease caused by the Sudan virus following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus disease and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as high based on available data.
Omilabu said, “Ebola is deadlier than COVID-19, so there is the need for us to be very cautious.
“There should be health education to enlighten the public on the signs and symptoms and what people should look out for and where they should go to. All these things need to be made public as part of preparedness for it.
“The fatality rate of COVID-19 is about two per cent while that of Ebola is almost 50-80 per cent. If there are 10 persons with Ebola, at least five or eight of them will die but if it’s COVID-19, the fatality rate is between 1.8 per cent and two per cent.”
A medical virologist at the Adeleke University, Ede, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in a separate interview, said, “The government should set up a good surveillance system at our borders.
“Flight from areas where the virus has been reported should be well monitored. Travel advice should be made available to Nigerians. “
Also, a virologist at the Department of Virology, College of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Dr Moses Adewumi, said it is almost certain that the virus is in the country.
Adewumi said, “We don’t have to wait for an alert. We all know that infectious diseases can’t be stopped by boundaries. So, we have to take proactive measures. We need to ensure that the surveillance rate is heightened. Our government should not relax surveillance. It’s almost certain that it’s with us so we should do everything humanly possible to improve surveillance to nip it in the bud.
“There is not enough awareness. There is no boundary when it comes to infectious diseases. Somebody could sleep in Nigeria and in the next six hours he is already in Europe and 12 to 13 hours, he is already in the United States.
“If we strengthen our surveillance as people are coming in, we ensure that they are well screened.”
The Ondo State Epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, said people must look out for international travellers, especially from Uganda.
Fagbemi said, “Nigeria has been on high alert and the experts are already doing the risk assessment and having done that, they have increased our alert level.
“The surveillance is tightened at the airports because that is the easiest route for people coming from Uganda. Also, they are working on strategies for the screening of travellers.
“Beyond that, if anybody is detected, we already have treatment centres and isolation facilities in all the states where we have international airports.
“For the rest of us, we need to create awareness and people need to be conscious. If you know anybody who is an international traveller, especially through Uganda, you have to be on the lookout for such a person. “
Meanwhile, the NCDC said it was following up with passengers arriving from Uganda and persons who transited in Uganda are being followed up for 21 days of their arrival in Nigeria on their health status.
The centre has also stated that the Public Health Emergency Operations Centres in states with major Points of Entry – Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Rivers states – are on standby and a medical countermeasures plan is available.
The NCDC made this known in a press statement signed by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, and made available to our correspondent.