The fight against the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has continued to gather momentum in Cross River State. Stakeholders in the state have been brainstorming on the prevention and treatment of the ailment in case of any possible outbreak.
The stakeholders who cut across the academia, health and medical workers, the airport, Immigration and ports personnel, have held series of meetings, seminars and workshops as well as enlightenment campaigns to create awareness of the disease
Though the state has not recorded any case of the virus, the large influx of tourists into the Paradise City has made it imperative to sensitise the people and health workers in case of medical emergencies.
At the one-day stakeholders’ forum organised by University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) in the hospital conference hall, the stakeholders focused on how to train-the-trainer on Ebola prevention and control. The Chief Medical Director of UCTH, Dr. Thomas Agan, said the training aimed at providing discussions on internal issues like burial practices and corpse management so as to decrease the risk in transmitting the Ebola virus.
Agan maintained that because of the strategic location of the state and its leading role in tourism and hospitality industry, there was urgent need to intensify the Ebola campaign and possibly disabuse the minds of the citizenry on some myths surrounding the virus.
On his hospital’s readiness to tackle any outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the state, he disclosed that the Teaching Hospital had taken delivery of all protective equipment and requirements for the management of Ebola victims.
He said: “Presently, we have taken delivery of all personal protective equipment and management requirements. We will be taken through the epidemiology of the Ebola Virus Disease, clinical diagnosis and treatment, general prevention, strict isolation of cases, disease surveillance and quarantine, social distance as well as control of environment.
“The training was meant to acquaint laboratory technologists with laboratory diagnosis, collection and transportation of specimen as well as prevention of Ebola transmission in the hospital and laboratory,” he maintained.
Also speaking at the workshop, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) committee of experts on EVD in West Africa, Professor Victor Inem, said victims who survive an attack of the disease could contract the virus again if they opened themselves to risky behaviours.
Inem said: “It is very possible for cured victims to re-contract the virus when they bring themselves closer again to sufferers through sex, other body fluids, eating of some animals which are reservoirs of the virus or through processes of burying victims.”
Inem assured that like every other epidemic that had confronted the human race, “this Ebola epidemic will equally subside and go.”
However, as part of proactive measures, the Cross River State Ebola Response Committee (CRSERC) has been recently inaugurated by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Angela Oyo-Ita. The response team was made up of representatives of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Ports and Ministry of Health.
Addressing members of the committee at the premises of the College of Health Technology, the health commissioner urged members of the committee to view themselves as stakeholders in the control of the Ebola epidemic in the state.
Oyo-Ita, who is also the chairman of the committee, disclosed that thermal devices had been sent to the Calabar Airport for the screening of passengers. Speaking at the meeting, the representative of the Nigeria Immigration Service intimated the committee that 82 new border patrol officials had been sent to the state to help in monitoring people coming into the state.
She said the response teams among others had adopted Standard Operating Procedures for Port Health and that Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have had to provide queuing robes to enhance single filing as well as a red tape on the floor to keep passengers a distance away from staff.
According to her, the Ministry of Health would engage border patrol officials and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to check the movement of people into the state just as they would organise town hall meetings to disseminate information on Ebola.
Speaking on the ministry’s activities so far on Ebola Virus Disease, Dr. Sunny Omini, Director of Epidemiology, State Ministry of Health, Calabar, said: “The ministry has trained three people per facility including the doctor, the nurse and the laboratory attendant. We’ve trained the Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) and their assistants in all the local governments.
“We also sent people from here to undergo the training that was conducted by the Federal Government; when they came back, they had to step down the training and that’s what has been going on. And we are embarking on public enlightenment. I’ve just discussed with the desk officer in-charge of medical education and the information officer of the ministry to go and produce jingles; those jingles will be translated into Efik, Bekwarra and Ejagam languages.”
Omini said the problem was to identify an isolation room because Ebola itself was not transmitted during incubation period. It was from the time the virus attack its victim that the disease starts manifesting, adding that it was from the moment the disease showed up that its victim had to be isolated.
“Because there are no cures for it now, the best thing we are doing is to prevent it from coming to the state. So we are trying now to see if we can set up an isolation unit, an isolation ward or room in case anybody is affected or infected.”
On the issue of eating bats, he said the committee had embarked on massive social mobilisation and sensitisation among hunters, farmers and the entire community.