Chairman, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi has said that Nigeria is not ready to tackle the spread of the world’s deadliest epidemic as it came at a time when the Nigerian doctors have gone on an industrial action.
He explained that one way to tackle an epidemic outbreak is to attempt to cut the root of its transmission, which is a viable option to keep Ebola from circulation, an action that he said must be taken by the Nigerian government immediately.
He added that, though, the federal government has set up committees, the speed of preparation seem to be very slow, which is not good for the country that houses millions of people, saying that the urgency is with building institutional capacities of health care providers, especially the medical laboratory scientists and the pharmacologists who have a basic training in identifying and manufacturing drugs or vaccines to tackle a disease.
In his words, “we need to begin to build institutional capacities of our health care providers; medical laboratory scientists who will of course be charged with identification, confirmation and all forms of diagnosis, incidental to this matter, who will also drive laboratory processes that will support a surveillance system.”
He insisted that, containing a global disease will need preventive health care, which is a full function of standard laboratories already put in place; adding that the structures are not yet in place.
According to Ifeanyi, “it is unfortunate before now, we had a central public health laboratory in Yaba, Lagos; what has become of that lab? Because we wanted to put square pegs in round holes, we destroyed the central public health laboratories in Yaba, which should have been serving as a reference lab in Nigeria.”
He said, “The way to containing disease globally, the pragmatic way to containing disease is preventive health care, and preventive health care is usually a function of laboratory based surveillance system; that is not yet in place.”
Though, he commended the Lagos state and Federal government on how they were able to nip the Ebola issue in the board, but however argued that sighting the Ebola victim was by providence and luck and not because of any preparedness on the part of the Nigerian government as there are no mechanisms or systems in place to stop its spread as regards unprotected borders and continuous movement of people in and out of Nigeria without care.
Ifeanyi added that, with the kind of population in the market where people push and shove, the spread will be at speed, saying that with much analysis, Nigeria still has a long way to go as far as keeping out Ebola is concerned.
The association chairman also said that Nigeria is blessed with about two world class virologists, having a vast knowledge in laser fever and Ebola virus, who could be of help to Nigeria at such a trying time and that their wealth of Knowledge and experience could be tapped, he urged the federal government to engage them to provide advice on strategies to put in place.
In an interview, the director, Biosensors diagnostics limited, Abuja, Mrs Chioma Onuora has urged Nigerians to apply caution as that’s the minimal thing they can do.
She said that though the first case of Ebola was quickly attended to, but the fact that he was in an aircraft with some people was a thing of concern, which only calls for caution but not fear.
In her words, “we should not be afraid, we should be very cautious; fear makes you go and hide under a table, caution makes you try to prevent and protect.”
She explained the difference between quarantine and surveillance, saying that the two people under quarantine were not necessarily infected, but for the fact that they had very close contact with the Liberian Ebola victim.
She said the two are under watch, daily check up and probably waiting for the incubation period after which if no positive sign was noticed or reported would be released, “the symptoms have a span, a period of time, from infection to the disease and God forbid, demise, so until the expiration of that time, those people will remain under observation, they will be tested every day until they are confirmed negative,” she added.
Meanwhile, the chairman, Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors, FCT branch, Mr. Ekanem has said that closing the borders is not advisable as many Nigerians living in other countries might be planning to return, while some who have ignorantly gone on business trip will always try and find a way back.
“Closing borders have never and may never be the solution at this stage”, he said.
He however said that any plans that may come up from medical lab scientists and virologists would be a policy determined by the government which will be backed up my technical know- how and man power, he also insisted that there is a need for Government to take advantage of this time and build health laboratories across the states, so the country will always be set for emergency cases like that of Ebola, in the near future, should the need arise.
Ekanem said the private sector is meant to be involved in the struggle to keep out Ebola as it was revealed that 65-70% of Nigerians seek medical help with private hospitals , adding that, that is a viable reason for the private sector to be involved.