In the wake of the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in Congo, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Nigeria and other countries in the African region to be at moderate risk of spread.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which disclosed this in a statement Saturday, however warned Nigerians to be cautious and take precautionary measures to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the country.
According to a report by the WHO, 16 people have died in an area of Northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo where health officials have now confirmed an Ebola Outbreak.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the central African nation, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s. The disease killed eight people in the country last year.
The worst Ebola epidemic in history ended in West Africa just two years ago after killing more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it rolled through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
In December 2013, after a two-year-old boy died from Ebola in a rural village in Guinea, the virus spread across three West African countries, reaching Nigeria, Spain, the US and the UK.
In October 2014, WHO declared Nigeria Ebola free, 42 days after the last known case had occurred as the country managed to limit the number of cases to 19 with 10 deaths.
Ebola Virus Disease is a rare disease that can lead to death mostly affecting human and non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). It is caused by an infection with one of five known Ebola virus species, four of which can cause disease in human.
The virus can be transmitted via direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD. The virus can get in through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. The virus can also be spread through contact with objects contaminated by infected persons as well as direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected fruit bats or primates.
When infected, a person with Ebola may present with symptoms such as sudden high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A distinct symptom of Ebola and other VHFs is unexplained bleeding from body openings. The symptoms may appear 2 to 21 days after exposure to an infection.
To prevent the spread of Ebola, the NCDC advise members of the public to adhere to the following precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently using soap and water – use hand sanitizers when soap and water is not readily available
- Avoid direct handling of dead wild animals
- Avoid physical contact with anyone who has possible symptoms of an infection with an unknown diagnosis
- Make sure fruit and vegetables are properly washed and peeled before you eat them
Health care workers are advised to ensure universal care precautions at all times. This includes the use of personal protective equipment when handling patients always. In addition, patients who are suspected to have Ebola should be immediately isolated from other patients.