Health Ministry On High Alert Over Fears Of Ebola Virus Outbreak

ONYEBUCHI NWOSU

The Federal Government has moved to assure Nigerians that there is no outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola virus “is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

“This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding,” the WHO said.

Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Saturday described the rumours of the outbreak of the virus as untru but added that the ministry had intensified surveillance.

A statement by Mr. Dan Nwomeh, the Special Assistant on Media and Communication to the Minister, issues in reaction to the reported outbreak of the virus in Nasarawa State said: “The minister’s attention was drawn to a recent media report about an alleged death of an affected person in Nasarawa State.

“The report is not true and should be disregarded. The said case is yet to be diagnosed and confirmed as Ebola virus.

“The general public should please note that the authority to confirm the outbreak of disease epidemics rests with the minister of health.

“The institution that is mandated to investigate the outbreak of diseases and advise the minister of health is the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC),” it added.

Saturday’s statement also stressed that based on available information from the NCDC and the minister of health, there was no outbreak of Ebola virus in Nigeria, adding that while the virus does not the only cause of hemorrhagic fever; all suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever are subject to laboratory analysis and confirmation.

The statement said Nigeria had the capacity to diagnose the disease if it appeared in the country and that the NCDC was currently studying outbreak trends of the virus.

It also assured Nigerians that the  NCDC had mobilised rapid response teams and developed a detailed response plan that included a comprehensive health education and health promotion to sensitise Nigerians, the statement added.

It said that surveillance had been stepped up to detect and treat the disease, just as treatment and isolation centres had been mobilised in case of outbreak.

The statement read in part: “The Federal Ministry of Health is working closely with West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is ready to deploy experts to Guinea to strengthen its response capacity.

“Although the health institutions have been put on red alert for Ebola here in Nigeria, the WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions to Guinea in respect of this outbreak,” said the statement.

The health ministry advised the general public to take precautionary measures to avert the outbreak.

The statement advised persons coming from Ebola disease-affected countries, who might have symptoms of high fever, headache, severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea and bleeding, to report to health authorities on arrival.

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.