By Aishat Momoh. O.
The Sudan strain of the Ebola Virus (EV) is causing a continuing outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Uganda, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).
In a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday, the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, stated that Uganda had reported the virus outbreak on September 20 and was in an alert condition.
According to reports, the World Health Organization has also confirmed the outbreak (WHO).
The Ebola virus strain from Sudan, which has previously been responsible for outbreaks in South Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is considered to be the source of EVD.
Samples taken from a 24-year-old man who had shown signs of the illness and eventually passed away in Mubende District, in the Central Region, roughly 175 kilometers from the country’s capital, Kampala, were verified by the Uganda Virus Research Institute to be the virus.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health recorded 54 cases as of September 29 (35 confirmed and 19 probable), along with 25 fatalities (7 confirmed and 18 probable).
The WHO is assisting the Ugandan Ministry of Health in its efforts to effectively combat and stop the virus’s spread.
The head of the NCDC stated that a fast risk assessment had been carried out by the multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Technical Working Group (NEVHD TWG), in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, to direct in-country preparedness measures.
“The NEVHD TWG coordinates preparedness efforts for EVD and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases.
“Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as high for the following reasons:
“The Sudan Ebola Virus does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or licensed vaccine for prevention.
“The extent of the outbreak in Uganda has not yet been ascertained as investigations have shown that some persons may have died with similar symptoms which were not reported to health authorities.
“In addition, their burials were not conducted safely to prevent transmission.
“The case fatality rate of the Sudan virus varied from 41 per cent to 100 per cent in past outbreaks.
“The likelihood of importation to Nigeria is high, due to the increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda, especially through Kenya’s Nairobi airport, a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that shared a direct border with Uganda.
“The likelihood of spread in Nigeria following importation is high due to the gatherings and travel associated with politics, the coming yuletide as well as other religious gatherings and festivals during the last few months of the year,” he outlined.
He said that in spite of the risk assessment, the country had the capacity – technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic – to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak.
“This is exemplified by our successful response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, as well as improvements in our capacity for health emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the diagnostic capacity to test for the EVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital’s Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology Laboratory,” he said.
He, however, said that diagnostic capacity would be scaled up to other laboratories in cities with important Points of Entry (POE) and others as might be required.
“An effective response system is in place with the availability of control capacities (trained rapid response teams, and an effective infection prevention and control programme) to limit the risk of spread in the event of a single imported case.
“Currently, no case of EVD has been reported in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the Nigerian Government, through NCDC’s multisectoral NEVHD TWG, has put several measures in place to prevent and prepare for immediate control of any outbreak of the disease in-country.
“The NCDC Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) is now in alert mode. Development of an incident action plan for the first few cases of EVD has commenced.
“POE surveillance has been heightened, using the passenger pre-boarding health declaration and screening form in the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) platform.
“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.
“Trained Rapid Response Teams are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak.
Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs) in states with major POE i.e. Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Rivers are on standby.
“A medical countermeasures plan is available.”
He said amplification of risk communication and engagement with states and partners, to strengthen preparedness activities including a review of risk communication protocols, plans and messages in the event of an outbreak, had been done.
Adetifa said the country had an active infection Prevention and Control (IPC) programme nationwide with guidelines and training packages developed for healthcare workers.