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Lagos prepares for impending Ebola virus outbreak

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Lagos Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris


• Scientists suggest new therapies to disable virus

Recent reports on the resurge of Ebola Virus Disease making rounds in the news raised fear among countries, as they move to strengthen their readiness and emergency response for possible outbreak.Barely a week after the Health Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Oly Ilunga, officially declared an end to Ebola Virus in the country, a new outbreak reemerged in North Kivu Province, claiming lives.

The death toll in the country continues rising as it has reached 36, with 44 reported cases (17 confirmed and 27 probable) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. An additional 47 suspected cases are currently pending laboratory testing to confirm or exclude Ebola virus disease.Scientists have disclosed that the Ebola virus disease remains a public health threat and should be taken as a security issue.

Meanwhile, the Lagos Sate government as part of effort to contain another outbreak has strengthened its preparedness and emergency response.Nigeria witnessed her first Ebola outbreak on August 2014, when the late Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer flew into Nigeria in an attempt to get to the United States after contacting the disease in Liberia, became violently ill upon arriving at the airport in Lagos state and died five days later.

As a result of this, eight Nigerians died from the disease with 20 confirmed cases of infected people, majority of them health workers.Nigeria’s quick responses, including intense and rapid contact tracing, surveillance of potential contacts, and isolation of all contacts were of particular importance in controlling and limiting the outbreak, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. JIde Idris told The Guardian that the country, both at the federal and state level is better prepared than in the past four years, as it is doing everything possible to ensure all the necessary capacity is built to maintain the highest level of preparedness, especially in the state.
“Our disease surveillance and mitigation system is still on, we are beefing it up. We are putting our people on a higher state of alert; our surveillance officers are all over the local government areas on the alert, even at the state level and the various hospitals, we are increasing the awareness, extending fact sheets, and increasing the tempo of emergency committees in various hospitals,” he said.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, PHN, had launched the Alliance for Epidemic Preparedness and Response, (A4EPR) with the aim of developing a formal structure for the private sector to support the government in the prevention, preparedness, detection, response and control of outbreaks in Nigeria.The gathering had Dr Idris, the Minister of Health Prof. Issac Adewole and Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire to chat ways with the private sector partnership towards ending the series of outbreaks of Lassa fever, Monkeypox, yellow fever, cholera, meningitis, Ebola and other epidemic diseases, which affect the country’s economy through loss of labour, reduced productivity and inefficiency of businesses.

Dr Idris said the initiative was a good move in the right direction as the state government is collaborating with the all the institutions to drive awareness on containing the outbreak.“We are working closely with Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), we are also working hand-in-hand with some external agencies; the idea is to build and strengthen our level of preparedness,” he added.

Meanwhile, an international group, Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium (VIC) comprising virologists, immunologists, systems biologists and structural biologists, had in a recent study suggested effective therapeutic antibodies to stop any possible Ebola outbreak from striking again.The group of scientists, according to their reports in the journal Cell suggests new therapies should disable Ebola virus’s infection machinery and spark the patient’s immune system to call in reinforcements.

“The hope is that the most effective antibodies can be combined in a therapeutic “cocktail.” Unlike an Ebola vaccine, these cocktails could be given to those already infected, which is important for stopping a disease that tends to emerge unexpectedly in remote locations,” the group said.Speaking on the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, which was used during the last Ebola outbreak, Dr Idris said: “The plan was to upgrade the place in stages, which we are doing, although, I also admit that we should move faster than that. The numbers of buildings there have been renovated, especially the wards, the wall is the remaining scheduled for renovation. More importantly with the help of the Canadian government.

We are establishing the Product Safety Laboratory 3 there, which right now the construction work is ready for conclusion; we are just waiting for the arrival of the equipment and to fix them.”He said the state government is aware of the research on going to fully understand the virus and developing vaccines for treatment, adding that efforts are been made to support such research.

Speaking on the challenges in containing the disease outbreak, the commissioner said: “With respect to will and commitment of the government, it is dead there is no doubt about it.,” adding that the major challenge was resource available and adequate funding of the health sector at all level in which he said the budget allocation for the sector is inadequate.

“We need to build up public health infrastructure, not necessarily hospitals alone, we have to fund all the disease surveillance officers, publicity issues, public enlightenment, all these things require money, so basically the problem is lack of resources and the need to focus more on this things, we can all continue doing that by continuous advocacy and persuasion.”


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