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EBOLA: We need more than the N200million released, we need more virologists – Fashola

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Original Post By Ezekiel Attah, ThisDay.

The federal government has finally released a sum of N200 million earmarked to fight the outbreak of  the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to the Lagos State Government . The state Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), disclosed this in Ikeja yesterday when MTN Nigeria Limited also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to the state government. Fashola said the government received the money last Wednesday and that the money would be used for the purpose it was meant for, according to report from ThisDay. 

The governor commended the communication firm, reiterating that the state did not need donations at this time as it had what is needed to fight the deadly virus. However, the governor noted that the challenge being faced in the management of Ebola Virus was shortage of virologists. He explained that the health team “accepts this gesture and wish to reiterate that whilst we understand and fully appreciate humanitarian concern that propels these things, the real problem is the insufficiency of experienced virologists. “That is Ebola Virus specialist needed in managing this disease. That, really is the problem, it is not always a money problem. It is not really an equipment problem, it is human capacity problem. “Like I said before, we do not need to panic, Ebola virus is not automatic death sentence.

 A lot of knowledge is being gained on daily basis even at this moment about the behaviour of the virus and that knowledge helps the scientist to prepare even better to respond. “Different types of the virus have been identified and they now have clarity about the length of lifespan of the virus. That body of knowledge has helped in the management of disease.” He expressed sadness that outbreak of the disease had been recorded in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, another urban settlement like Lagos, stressing that the experience of Lagos and Port Harcourt would serve as definitive knowledge in the fight against Ebola Virus in urban settlement. He added that the state was collaborating with the  Rivers State Government to curtail the spread of the disease in the state. So far, Fashola said seven people had survived the disease and five dead in Lagos while two were still currently at the Isolation Centre at Mainland General Hospital, Yaba. Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Pascal Dozie, while presenting the PPE, said the gesture was as a result of the seriousness Lagos State had shown in curtailing the spread of Ebola Virus in the state. “Our coming here is very simple. When you see a good thing, you appreciate it and would want to be part of it. We have watched the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Fashola when this EVD occurred. “We thank God that it started in Lagos because if it has started elsewhere, we would have had a pandemic. We are here to express our appreciation and lend our support. We had already started supporting their cause by providing call centres, that is the Ebola Virus hot line where their doctors are there responding to inquiries and findings. “Today, we have come to provide a fairly reasonable quantum of Personal Protective items both for the care givers and other health workers,” he stated. Meanwhile, rising from its second emergency meeting in less than a month, the National Council on Health (NCH) yesterday mandated the armed forces and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other paramilitary agencies to liaise with the Port Health Service (PHS) to checkmate the spread of Ebola at all entry points.

 The Minister of Health and Chairman of the council, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who read the communiqué, said the council requested that “the armed forces, customs, prisons, immigration and other services to collaborate with the Port Health Services to strengthen the monitoring for EVD at ports of entry.” Also, the council observed that “the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to re-circulate protocols and SOPs for management of EVD cases as well as protocol for submitting samples to the laboratories and burying of EVD victims. The federal government should provide specifications and support the states with special Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).” They further noted that “though there is no ban on mass gatherings, states should ensure the avoidance of mass gatherings and where this is unavoidable to ensure that health practices are observed.” According to the communique,  council “reaffirmed the urgent need for the Federal Ministry of Health to continue to support the establishment of additional laboratories for EVD diagnosis and also directed the NCDC to conduct detailed mapping of location, capacities and categorisation of existing laboratories to inform this scale up plan. Council noted that there has been an increase in the capacity of the laboratories.” The minister reiterated the commitment of the government to control the spread of EVD as a national health emergency as declared by the President. He urged council members and all stakeholders to work together to urgently halt and reverse the trend. Chukwu also pointed out that the strategies for containing the EVD in Nigeria are focused on appropriate information, education and communication, sustaining our surveillance systems; provision and equipping of isolation wards/centres; provision of adequate care for confirmed cases; active and aggressive contact tracing; and reduction in harmful practices that promote the spread of the virus. On the situation on ground, the NCH received three technical presentations, one by Dr. Akin Oyemakinde, the Chief Country Epidemiologist, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Federal Ministry of Health, on the current status of outbreak and prevention measures for the EVD in Nigeria;  medical waste – fundamental solution by the Country Director, Sunflower Group and a presentation by the Project Director NCDC, Prof. Abdullraman Nasidi, on the status update in Port Harcourt, to which council members commented on.