The Lagos State Government on Monday, 20th October, 2014, welcomed the declaration of Nigeria as Ebola Virus Disease free by the World Health Organization (WHO) but cautioned that things should not be taken for granted as long as the outbreak is still ravaging the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization made the declaration in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Monday, 20th October, 2014, following the completion of the two incubation periods of 42 days (i.e. 21 days each) after the discharge of the last confirmed case in Port Harcourt on Sunday, 7th September, 2014.
Welcoming the declaration on behalf of the State Government at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa during an inter-ministerial Press Conference, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, said eternal vigilance should be the watchword as the country needed to continually be on the alert and ready to act in the case of any other outbreak.
Idris, who spoke alongside his Special Duties and Information and Strategy counterparts, Dr Wale Ahmed and Mr. Lateef Ibirogba respectively, as well as the Special Adviser on Public Health Dr (Mrs.) Yewande Adeshina said vigilance was expedient because if the cases in the United States of America were anything to go by, health workers needed to understand new challenges and adhere strictly to protocols and respond better.
The Commissioner gave the assurance that the state would not rest on its oars until the virus is completely expelled in the neighbouring African countries adding that the state government was marching on to reassure the citizens, helping them to get back their lives, strengthening the schools’ capabilities to confront the disease and giving support to businesses affected by the outbreak.
He said in view of this, the state government has approved the provision of the lump sum of N50 million as business support gesture to First Consultants Medical Centre while it plans assistance to other affected persons, including those alive, with a view to getting the people and their businesses back on their feet.
The Commissioner, however, said government would like to make it clear that the assistance “should not be seen as an attempt at providing compensation to the affected persons or businesses but should be taken as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the state government”.
He said plans have almost been concluded to deploy about 28 health volunteers who worked on the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease in Lagos to Sierra Leone to assist the West Africa neighbour in containing the spread urging private individuals and organizations wishing to join in the good work to come on board, especially for those who have earlier indicated interest or made pledges.
Idris also itemized some of the steps already being planned by the administration as a follow up to the Ebola Free status certification by WHO to include the decontamination and restocked of the Mainland Hospital Yaba adding that training of staff was also on-going in readiness to take care of any known or emerging epidemic.
It also includes strengthening of point of entry activities, in collaboration with the Federal Government at the airports and seaports and especially at the land borders which presently pose a challenge “because of the porous and yet to be captured international land crossings”.
Others, according to the Commissioner, are the on-going intensification of training and retraining on all aspects of EVD management with same involving health workers in both the public and private health sectors, laboratory workers, community mobilizers, surveillance teams and morgue operators.
The Commissioner said a comprehensive upgrade and modernization of Mainland Hospital, Yaba, would be implemented in phases with a major feature being the establishment of research facilities, stressing that support from external agencies would be most welcome in this regard.
“There is continuing public enlightenment, especially on hand washing, personal hygiene, environmental health/ sanitation”, the Commissioner said adding, “Key along this line is the management of rumour mongering, stigmatization of contacts and discharged cases,” Idris said.
He said the plans also include upgrading of surveillance system with routine surveillance for viral hemorrhagic fevers among patients-yellow fever, Lassa fever and dengue fever- as well as active surveillance for deaths, hospitalization and illness in healthcare workers.
Idris also stated that Ebola Virus Disease team on round the clock standby would be created with an ambulance with an EVD clinician team leader and a driver with five of such teams being available.
Recalling that the state spent the early part of the intervention period in containing the disease and reducing deaths, the Commissioner maintained that the State would, however, not disband the structures put in place but rather improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
He also listed some of the key success factors of the EVD containment to include political will and support at the highest level of governance including from the Lagos State Governor and his cabinet members as well as adoption of incident management system with the setting up of five critical committees that met under the aegis of the Ebola Emergency Centre twice daily during the active phase of the outbreak (9 a.m. and 6 p.m.) to render report of each day’s activities.
Others include a seamless linkage of surveillance and contact tracing activities with case management, rapid and conclusive investigation of suspected cases and deaths including rumours, disposal of corpses of confirmed cases in line with WHO International Health Regulations-often cremation but sometimes guided burial – and development of and compliance with protocols for many of the interventions in the containment efforts.