By Bosun Awoniyi
Nigeria has never stopped the screening of inbound passengers at the airports since an Ebola outbreak in 2014 after an American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, brought it into the country, an official said Thursday.
Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday directed the health ministry to step up surveillance activities against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country.
Minister of Health Isaac Adewole, who said this to reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital, added that the council’s directive followed the reported reemergence of the disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The health ministry in DRC said cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in its northwest region that is facing an Ebola epidemic as far back as December and the first deaths were reported in January.
The health ministry said on Tuesday that at least 17 people had died in an area of northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo where health officials have now confirmed an outbreak of Ebola.
Spokesperson for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Henrietta Yakubu told Xinhua that the aviation body still had all the equipment and adequate personnel at the airport to prevent the virus from coming into the country.
“We have always had thermal scanners in our airports that monitor temperature of passengers and capture their pictures. We still have hand sanitizers in our rest rooms too,” she added.
“When passengers walk pass the scanners, it registers their temperature. If yours is high, you are pulled aside for observation,” the spokesperson said.
The scanners are fixed apparatus at the arrival halls that take the picture and temperature of any given passenger at a particular time as the traveler passes through them, the FAAN spokesperson added.
Yakubu added that this was being supported by Port Health officers who ensure that any suspicious person is brought in for observation.
She said the authority would not relent on its effort at ensuring that inbound passengers were properly screened at the airports.
Earlier, Adewole, Nigeria’s health minister, told reporters that the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some team to DRC as part of building capacity for managing the outbreak.
Adewole reassured Nigerians that the federal government was concerned about the outbreak and would continue to do everything possible to keep the country safe from the outbreak.
In 2014, Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), having recorded no new cases of the highly contagious disease after six weeks.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola is introduced into human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
By Bosun Awoniyi