Nigeria facing multiple concurrent COVID-19 outbreaks, says FG

As the maiden edition of the Nigerian Conference of Applied and Field Epidemiology, NiCAFE, opened in Abuja, the Federal Government on Tuesday disclosed that Nigeria despite responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is faced with increasing cases of multiple concurrent disease outbreaks.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who disclosed this in his opening address at the NiCAFE said in the last one month, the country has been responding to an outbreak of cholera across states, an increasing number of Lassa fever cases,  monkeypox case reported in the US with travel history from Nigeria, as well as weekly reports of yellow fever and measles cases.

Ehanire who blamed the outbreak of diseases in Nigeria on the tropical climate in Nigeria, population density, high number of international travels and local movements among others added that, all these factors put Nigeria at of infectious disease outbreaks.

 He said in the last five years, the federal government has prioritised measures to strengthen health security.

“From the establishment of the NCDC National Reference Laboratory in 2017, NCDC led the establishment of at least one molecular laboratory in every state in 2020. From the establishment of the National Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in 2017, the NCDC has led the establishment of State Public Health EOCs across the country

“Additionally, the Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies has become an active contributor to global science. We conducted the largest population-based HIV survey globally in 2019 and have continued to implement studies from that survey to strengthen our knowledge of the epidemiology of other vaccines preventable diseases.

“The last one year, we have conducted population-based surveys for COVID-19 and published several papers describing our experience with the COVID-19 response and lessons that can be adopted in other countries.  The Federal Government of Nigeria has continued to prioritise investments in health security.”

Speaking on NiCAFE, the Minister said by organising scientific conferences such as the NiCAFE, the government not only recognise the unique situation the country is in with annual outbreaks but  shows  responsibility and leadership in developing measures to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreaks.

Corroborating his views in his welcome address, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the lives of Nigerians upside down.

Noting that Nigeria has had over 170,000 infections and more than 2,000 deaths, he expressed sadness that there is a possibility that the country is yet to see the worst of the pandemic.

He said the country is not only faced with a pandemic in Nigeria, but multiple concurrent disease outbreaks.

“In the last one month alone, we have been responding to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, an outbreak of cholera in several states, panic associated with the detection of a monkeypox case in the US with travel history from Nigeria.

“Every week, we detect cases of yellow fever, Lassa fever, measles and other infectious diseases that are endemic in Nigeria. That is our reality – our tropical climate, population density, poor socio-economic factors leave us at risk of annual, multiple, concurrent disease outbreaks in Nigeria. Therefore, we must be one step ahead of these pathogens,” he stated.

He said Nigeria must also think of the other public health challenges that lie ahead of  the country  as the population is growing at a rapid phase and will have an incredible impact on the health system.

“Globally, there is a rise in antimicrobial resistance, and this will affect the prevention and management of infectious disease cases. We are also faced with increasing risks and prevalence of non-communicable diseases.”

Ihekweazu said the last one year spent responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has presented  the country with lessons from leadership and governance to building the laboratory systems and risk communications.

Stating that the lessons from COVID were a wakeup call, he said the NiCAFE will provide an opportunity for Nigerian experts and leaders to hear from eight exceptional plenary speakers who work at global, regional and country levels on various aspects of global health and health system strengthening.

“We will also hear from the staff of NCDC, our field epidemiologists, public health professionals from across Nigeria and African countries on the work they do in contributing to national, regional and global health security.

We recognise that this is a difficult period where several colleagues are working extremely hard in response to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. But, it is also important that we reflect on lessons learned so far, and think together on how we can strengthen our response to COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks, “he stated.
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