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NCDC: Nigeria at moderate risk of Marburg virus disease outbreak

The Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja at the Health Security Policy Dialogue, organised by the Nigeria Health Watch.

In view of the proximity of Nigeria to its neighbouring Ghana where the Marburg virus had been discovered, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has said the country was at moderate risk of the disease.

To this end, the agency has directed citizens to conduct test for the virus at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital Laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology.

Recall that the World Health Organisation, WHO, had on July 17, 2022, confirmed the presence of the disease in Ghana.

NCDC in a statement by its Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, yesterday, said it was on high alert, given the proximity of Ghana to Nigeria as well as the World Health Organisation’s alert.

Ghana has reported two cases, involving unrelated males – 26 and 51 years old, who both died from the disease.

For second time, the zoonotic disease had been detected in West Africa, following the previous incidence in Guinea in August 2021.

The disease was first discovered in 1967 when it broke out in Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia.

Since then, outbreaks and sporadic cases had been reported in some African countries.

The Marburg virus causes a rare, highly infectious disease and severe haemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates, just like the Ebola virus, its closest relation and only other member of the Filoviridae family of viruses.

The NCDC’s statement read: “Given the proximity of Ghana to Nigeria as well as the WHO alert, the NCDC-led multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Working Group (EVHDWG) that coordinates preparedness efforts for MVD, and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases has conducted a rapid risk assessment to guide in-country preparedness activities.

“Based on available data, the overall risk of both importation of the disease and its potential impact on the Nigerian population is said to be Moderate as assessed by NCDC experts and partners given the following: the proximity (same region), high traffic from Ghana and countries that share borders with Ghana, the incubation period of 21 days of the virus, heightened surveillance at point of entry, Nigeria’s capacity to respond to the outbreak in the country and the fact that persons with MVD transmit the virus when they become symptomatic unlike for SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 that can also be transmitted by infected persons without symptoms.”

“Nigeria has the capacity to test for the virus presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology. Diagnostic capacity can be scaled up to other laboratories if required. Nigeria has the resources (human, technical, and laboratory) for prompt identification and management in the event of a single imported case.

“However, the risk of importation may be further reduced as the current situation in Ghana is under control as reported by Ghana Health Service. Active case finding is ongoing in Ghana while there is heightened surveillance in Togo and Benin. Therefore, the response situation may change in the coming days with the control efforts in Ghana and advisories as may be issued by the WHO.

“In addition, many of the contacts under follow-up in Ghana will soon exit the 21-day quarantine period and so far, there have been no secondary cases reported.

“Currently, no case of Marburg virus disease has been reported in Nigeria. However, several measures are being put in place to prevent an outbreak of the disease in-country.

The National Reference Laboratory has the capacity to test for MVD, point of entry surveillance has been heightened, trained rapid response teams are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak and the NCDC’s Incident Coordination Centre is in alert mode.

“The NCDC is also amplifying risk communication efforts and continues to work with States and partners to strengthen preparedness activities which include– review of risk communication protocols, plans, and messages in the event of an outbreak.”

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