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Ebola resurgence: Nigeria, Ghana beef up border surveillance as WHO sounds alarm

Nigeria and its West African neighbour, Ghana, have heightened surveillance across all borders for Ebola virus following the detection of seven new cases of the disease in Guinea last Sunday.

Three people have reportedly died, prompting countries to activate response plans in regions, districts and health facilities.

The World Health Organisation has equally asked six Guinea’s neighbours including Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia to be alert for possible Ebola infections, while support has been initiated to tame the outbreak.

Ivory Coast, Mali and Sierra Leone have launched plans to stop any potential spread and quite distant neighbours aren’t also taking any chances.

Nigeria has mounted surveillance, with the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) tightening scrutiny at the nation’s points of entry especially in Guinea and the Congo DCR.

The Port Health Services have been placed on alert on land, while sea and air borders as well as major hospitals have also been put on notice for a keen index.

More focus will be beamed on patient’s travel history especially at outpatient departments for reporting of infection suspicion to focal persons and state epidemiologists.

Patrick Kuma-Agboaye, director-general, Ghana Health Service has asked district public health emergency management committees including port health units at all border posts, particularly along the Western line and landing beaches to look out for the virus using the standard case definition.

The Ebola virus which causes severe and often fatal illnesses adds to the woes of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak currently facing the continent and could overwhelm health systems capacity further.

The diseases, similar in the mode of transmission from animals to humans and from humans to humans, were last seen in 2016 after 11, 300 died as a result.

According to WHO, genomic sequencing of Ebola samples from both Congo and Guinea is being carried out to determine the source of the outbreaks and identify the strains.

Congo has confirmed that its latest cases are not linked to a new Ebola variant but represent a resurgence of its tenth outbreak, the second-largest on record that caused more than 2,200 deaths in 2018-2020, a Reuters report said.

Meanwhile, the international community now has eyes on ensuring the current endemic does not trail the path of COVID-19.

America’s president Joe Biden on Tuesday said everything possible must be done to stop the Ebola outbreaks, noting that capacity and financing for health security worldwide must be ensured even as the battle against COVID-19 moves on.

Also, some reassurance of better containment has been high among infectious disease monitoring groups based on the availability of vaccines

Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has assured that funded Ebola vaccine stockpile already created for this scenario to protect communities and save lives before things escalate will be launched.

Reports also say approved vaccines enough for 16,000 people were already in Butembo, Guinea and vaccination teams were being trained today.

Worried observers in Nigeria have however urged the country to also step up response to avoid unnecessarily loss of human capital such as the death of Dr. Stella Adadevoh, a lead consultant physician and endocrinologist who died after coming across the Ebola index case in 2014.

“Now that Guinea has declared an Ebola epidemic, the Nigerian authorities need to tighten the border; ensure adequate health screen and checks. We should create an emergency response, and prepare in case we have an index case. We don’t have to always wait. It’s always too late,” a Twitter user with the @the_beardedsina wrote.

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