Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe and highly fatal illness in humans. Currently, there is no known cure for the disease. However, early diagnosis and prompt access to supportive care offer the best hope of survival among infected individuals and limits the risk of further spread. More than 700 people have been killed in the ongoing outbreak across West Africa, including an American Citizen, Patrick Sawyer, who recently died in Lagos. It is a regrettable fact that the Nigerian health system currently has limited capacity to handle a disastrous epidemic of such a humongous magnitude as Ebola might bring.
HAPPYNigeria recognises and commends the efforts being made by the government to halt spread of the virus both within the country and across West Africa. We hereby issue in good faith the following ten-point call-to-action to sustain and enhance the preventive measures already being taken by the Nigerian government:
1. Assemble an Ebola task force comprising of scientists (epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, infectious disease physicians, etc), public officials, and civil society leaders to put together and implement an immediate national response plan. This task force should work hand-in-hand with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Ministry of Health.
2. Continue the national public health campaign to sensitise health workers and the general public on signs and symptoms of the disease and appropriate actions in suspected cases.
3. Issue travel alerts for Nigerians regarding travel to countries with burgeoning outbreaks.
4. Establish a monitoring system for Nigerians living in the worst affected countries and establish an evacuation and quarantine plan.
5. Conduct a rigorous contact tracing and thorough investigation on people that came in contact with the Late Patrick Sawyer. Do the same for the unnamed Nigerian whose corpse was returned from Liberia and placed in a morgue in Nigeria in July 2014, and also ascertain a definitive cause of death in this case.
6. Resolve, without further delay, the ongoing impasse with doctors to ensure a viable health workforce that can combat any eventualities.
7. Address, as an emergency, the deficient infection control policies, infrastructure, and processes in Nigerian health facilities.
8. Heighten border control and disease surveillance at our land borders, most importantly the Lagos-Seme border, and at all international airports in the country.
9. Call an ECOWAS regional health summit to develop an aggressive regional response, including a temporary suspension of the ECOWAS treaty on free movement of persons until the epidemic is stemmed.
10. Strengthen the national disease surveillance and epidemic response system in Nigeria.
Dr. Charles Chima, MSc, DrPH
Global Health Advisor, HAPPYNigeria
Dr ‘Femi Akinwumi
Executive Director, HAPPYNigeria
Dr Chima is a global health expert with multinational experience in disease prevention and management of health programmes.
Dr Akinwumi is a community health physician with extensive experience in health intervention and advocacy.