The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) says it is on a high alert after Marburg Virus was discovered in Ghana.
NCDC Director-General Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said this in a statement on Tuesday.
The outbreak in Ghana was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday and represents the second time the virus will be detected in West Africa. It had been detected in Guinea in August 2021.
Two unrelated males aged 26 and 51 in Ghana were confirmed have been infected by the virus which causes a rare, highly infectious disease and severe haemorrhagic fever (MVD) in humans and non-human primates just like the Ebola virus. Both men died from the disease. There is currently no cure for the virus.
“Given the proximity of Ghana to Nigeria as well as the WHO alert, the NCDC-led multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Working Group (EVHDWG) that coordinates preparedness efforts for MVD, and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases has conducted a rapid risk assessment to guide in-country preparedness activities,” NCDC Director-General, Dr Adetifa, said in the statement.
“Based on available data, the overall risk of both importation of the disease and its potential impact on the Nigerian population is said to be moderate as assessed by NCDC experts and partners given the following: the proximity (same region), high traffic from Ghana and countries that share borders with Ghana, the incubation period of 21 days of the virus, heightened surveillance at point of entry, Nigeria’s capacity to respond to the outbreak in the country and the fact that persons with MVD transmit the virus when they become symptomatic unlike for SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 that can also be transmitted by infected persons without symptoms.”
According to the agency’s DG, Nigeria has the capacity to test for the disease that was first discovered in 1967 after outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany.
Testing for the virus can currently be done at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology.
Dr Adetifa added, “Diagnostic capacity can be scaled up to other laboratories if required. Nigeria has the resources (human, technical and laboratory) for prompt identification and management in the event of a single imported case.”
Even with the measures in place including increased surveillance by the authorities in neighbouring Benin Republic and Togo, the NCDC boss believes changes may be needed.
“The response situation may change in the coming days with the control efforts in Ghana and advisories as may be issued by the World Health Organisation. In addition, many of the contacts under follow-up in Ghana will soon exit the 21-day quarantine period and so far, there have been no secondary cases reported,” he said.
The NCDC DG urged Nigerians to adhere strictly to the following preventive measures.
• Avoid non-essential travel to locations where the outbreak is reported for the moment
• Avoid direct contact with blood, saliva, vomit, urine, and other bodily fluids of people with suspected or confirmed Marburg virus disease
• Avoid the animal reservoir (fruit bats), other sick animals.
• Ensure all persons with the symptoms described above are promptly taken to healthcare facilities for diagnosis and initiation of supportive treatment
• In suspected and/or confirmed MVD cases, direct physical contact should be avoided by ensuring strict isolation, the use of protective gowns, masks, gloves and safe disposal of needles, bedding, and other contaminated materials
• Strict practice of infection prevention control in the healthcare setting for all suspected patients.
• Male survivors of Marburg virus disease should practice safer sexual practices and hygiene for 12 months from onset of symptoms or until their semen test negative twice for the virus