Olufemi Atoyebi and Adekunle Peter
The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, on Monday said there were suspected cases of yellow fever epidemic in Kogi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Zamfara, Edo, Benue states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He made this known during an event on the elimination of yellow fever epidemic in Abuja, which was organised by the agency and its international partners, including the World Health Organisation.
He said Nigeria and its international partners had already begun the fight against the spread of the epidemic. Shuaib also expressed his disappointment that despite the vast human resources Nigeria possesses in the health industry, the country still relies on sending samples to a reference laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, to confirm yellow fever outbreak.
He said, “The recent report from Edo State about yellow fever of an unknown origin is also being investigated. Tests done at laboratories in Nigeria have shown that nine of the samples tested positive for yellow fever. The samples have been sent to Dakar for confirmation. The NPHCDA, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Edo State Epidemiology team, World Health Organisation and other development partners are working together to rapidly conduct a comprehensive investigation and respond appropriately to the situation.
“Currently, there are over 1,640 suspected cases listed with 41 confirmed from the WHO regional defence laboratory in Dakar.”
Shuaib, however, said that in the next six months, Nigeria would establish its own reference laboratory to eradicate the epidemic in the country.
He said, “The Federal Government of Nigeria on its own part is committed to establishing a reference laboratory in the country to reduce the logistics challenge with sample transportation and laboratory turnaround time. This will ultimately reduce the response time and consequently the morbidity and mortality rates.
“With the resources we have here in Nigeria, it makes no sense that we have to rely on a reference laboratory in Dakar. This is part of the rot in the health sector over the past decades.”
The director also confirmed that the production of vaccines would resume in the country soon.
“We used to produce vaccines in the country. This government now has a board that is looking at the production of vaccines within a short time,” he added.
As part of the FG’s effort to fight the epidemic, Shuaib said that the third phase of preventive mass vaccination campaign had already begun in Sokoto, the Federal Capital Territory, Plateau and some council areas that were not covered in the last campaign in Niger and Kebbi states. The effort, according to him, began on November 22, 2018 and it would end on December 1, 2018.
He noted that with over six million doses of yellow fever vaccine, the nation was ready to fight the epidemic.
Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association on Monday confirmed the outbreak of yellow fever in the state, saying it had affected three local government areas.
They are Uhunmwonde, Esan West and Esan Central local government areas.
The state NMA chairman, Dr. Valentine Omoifo, who made the disclosure, called on the state government to immediately open centres and stocked them with vaccination to prevent the spread of the disease which he described as deadly but manageable.
He gave some of the symptoms of yellow fever to include high fever, jaundice, joint pain, headache, muscle pain and abdominal pain.
He said, “We are aware that about nine cases have tested positive for the disease following preliminary investigation by relevant agencies of government and await confirmation from the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory.
He said, “There is currently no known cure for this infection; however, it can be prevented by vaccination. People are advised not to panic if they notice any of the above symptoms but to go to the nearest health facility for supportive management and a proper referral for the management of the complications.”
Omoifo said the association was in touch with the state ministry of health and other relevant government agencies who he said were already working to “control the situation.”