It is no more news that Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (a disease caused by the Ebola Virus) has arrived Nigeria and has already claimed its first casualty. This Ebola Virus disease has claimed about 700 lives across West Africa and the number is rising.
I have seen a lot of post on Facebook and twitter handle of a good number of people including private and public organizations trying to educate folks on this dreaded disease and how to avoid it.
Such tips on Ebola Virus prevention range from hand washing, maintaining a high standard of hygiene, avoiding handshake with persons with suspected symptoms etc. These efforts are very highly commendable and that is the essence of the social media.
In situations like this, the public health system has a lot of responsibilities to carry out in order to mitigate the spread of such devastating ailment. Ebola Virus/disease has been described as a re-emerging infectious disease by experts and the devastation such diseases can cause is better imagined than described.
Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health, various NGOs and some tertiary health institutions has a properly set up and seemingly viable public health system and now is the time to put the coordination, collaboration, resource sharing, surveillance and control system of the public health system to test.
The Ebola Virus Case in Nigeria
I must say that the identification and notification of the first case of the Ebola Virus on the Liberian diplomat was quick and precise. That is what you can achieve when you make use of inter-Agency collaboration.
The next step I will expect the Public Health system to adopt is to establish outbreak control teams at various Regions and States of the Federation. These teams should be headed by a seasoned epidemiologist with good clinical background.
The main job of the outbreak control teams will be to implement surveillance and control action plans against the spread of the Ebola virus. They will investigate suspected cases and institute control measures.
It is also the responsibility of the outbreak control team to ensure effective communication between agencies and the people, educating them on the Ebola Virus/disease spread, how to stay away from it, what to do in suspected cases and what the public health system is doing at the moment.
This aspect of communication and information is very important in disease outbreak because accurate and right information is very important to stop rumours and lies that may cause panic and mass movement or migration of people.
Such events may jeopardize the efforts of experts at curbing the disease menace. It is also very important that folks understand the nature of the Ebola Virus/disease, how to identify it and what to do if the disease is suspected.
Additionally, folks need to be in the know about the efforts of government and the public health system at all times. This instils confidence and reassurance.
Finally, it is very necessary that all stake holders in the public and health care sector work together in terms of inter-agency collaboration, resource sharing, data sharing and support at this time. The country cannot afford to make any kind of technical or administrative mistake in this regard. Government should provide the necessary logistics for the Federal Ministry of Health and all agencies that will be involved in this effort.
I believe that with prayers and result oriented effort, we shall overcome the Ebola Virus and other diseases.