The Nigerian government has admitted that the deadly Ebola disease which is pervading the West African region, poses a real threat to Nigerians.
Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu made the revelation while briefing State House correspondents after this week’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that the presence of the disease in West and Central African countries also increases the threat to Nigeria.
While reeling out measures put in place by government to counter a possible outbreak of the disease, Chukwu urged Nigerians to maintain good personal hygiene so as to avoid contracting the disease.
The minister said: “Yes Ebola is a real threat. It is true that as of today, we have not reported a single case but mind you, Ebola is not the only threat, it is an added threat because West Africa never had a single case of Ebola until this year, it was more in Central Africa. Now, we have added it to the threats that are more native to West Africa, which is Lassa fever.”
Other diseases he said the region is grappling with include dengue fever and mabuck fever, which have not yet been detected in Nigeria.
“The Ebola virus has been moving eastwards toward Nigeria and the country is now at risk of infections from migrants leaving the Central African Republic and Congo. People migrating to Chad and Cameroon are also entering our borders,” the minister noted.
He said the federal government has already approved for jingles to be produced in various languages by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, which would be aired on Radio and TV, as well as newspaper adverts, as part of pre-emptive measures against the Ebola fever.
“We are also working with all groups, religious bodies, communities, traditional rulers and the media, which is most important in this venture, to educate Nigerians, just like we are doing for polio,” he said.
The minister, however, denied reports that there were vaccines available to tackle the disease, but noted that personal hygiene was key to preventing the disease.
“There are no vaccines, so it is not a question of government has not produced vaccines for Ebola or Lassa fever. If there were vaccines, government will certainly buy a stock and keep. There is no specific treatment. We know what spreads infections. For Lassa, it is a special type of rat in Nigeria; the ones for Ebola are bats that are considered bush meat in some Nigerian communities. These bats eat fruits and so sometimes if you pluck and eat the fruits that they have contaminated with the virus, you can get infected.” Chukwu explained.
“All the things we said before still apply; personal hygiene-make sure that after every activity, wash your hands, …. it is very important. Before you eat, wash your hands again; fruits must be washed, utensils must also be washed,” he stressed further.