The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) issued a warning on Tuesday that Nigeria faces a high risk of importing the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) as a result of an epidemic in Uganda.
On September 20, 2022, Uganda, an East African nation, declared an epidemic of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recognized that this outbreak exists.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health recorded 54 cases and 25 fatalities as of September 29, 2022. Since then, the NCDC’s multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Technical Working Group (NEVHD TWG) carried out a quick risk assessment; this, they did in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, to direct in-country preparedness activities.
“Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as high,” the centre said in a statement.
NCDC claims that Nigeria is at a high risk of importing the virus. This is due to the increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda; especially through Kenya’s Nairobi airport, a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda.
The centre also said that because of political events, upcoming holidays, and other religious gatherings and festivals in the final few months of the year, there is a strong possibility that the disease will spread in Nigeria after importation.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans. The strain responsible for the current outbreak was first reported in southern Sudan in June 1976. Since then, seven outbreaks caused by this strain have been reported (four in Uganda and three in Sudan); the previous fatality ratio of the outbreaks range from 41% to 100%.
Just like other types of Ebola virus, people infected cannot spread the disease until the development of symptoms. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. This is later followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Currently, there are no vaccines or therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of this strain of the virus. However, the early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce deaths.