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Nigeria prepares for Ebola outbreak as NCDC, FAAN strategise

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The Federal Government through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) yesterday said the country is prepared for another Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak.

The assurances is on the sideline of the fatality of the outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has spread from the countryside into a city, prompting fears that the disease will be increasingly hard to control.

Forty-four people have been infected and 23 people are known to have died.

Nigeria’s first case of EVD occurred in July 20, 2014 but the country was declared free of the virus on October 20 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after quick responses.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and National Coordinator of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told The Guardian yesterday: “Nigeria is much safer and prepared than it has ever been.”

Ihekweazu said one key area of strength for the NCDC in the last year has been the establishment of an Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) that ensures coordination during outbreaks.

He explained: “On the day the DRC confirmed an Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, our ICC was immediately activated and placed on alert mode. Although there are no Ebola Virus Disease cases in Nigeria, a coordination group has been set up to mitigate the risk.

“This group of experts have developed and disseminated a public health advisory note to the general public reminding them of what to do to prevent an outbreak and what to do in the event of an outbreak. A letter of alert has been sent to all states in the country highlighting the key needs of human resource, a treatment/isolation centre within a tertiary health facility, enhanced surveillance especially at points of entry and communication lines. The national port health services have been put on high alert and screenings heightened at all points of entry.”

Also, FAAN yesterday assured of its preparedness to detect and prevent the entry of EVD at airports nationwide, having mobilised relevant agencies to step up surveillance.

FAAN, which manages all the 22 Federal Government-owned airports across the country, said the agencies, including the Port Health Services, are collaborating effectively to ensure the safety of passengers and airport-users at all time.

FAAN, however, re-assured passengers and other airport users of safety across its network of airports.

General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, noted that since the first recorded case of the virus in Nigeria, through an American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, the Authority has not relaxed its surveillance at the airports to forestall any re-occurrence.

Yakubu added that all the equipment and personnel used in combatting the virus in 2014 are still very much at the airports and now complemented and reinforced.

She said: “We have always had thermal scanners in our airports that monitor temperature of passengers and capture their pictures. We still have hand sanitisers in our restrooms too.

“When passengers walk pass the scanners, it registers their temperature. If yours is high, you are pulled aside for observation,” Yakubu said.

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