The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria had 222 suspected cases of Yellow Fever, 19 confirmed cases and 76 deaths reported in three states – Bauchi, Delta and Enugu as of November 13.
Dr Ihekweazu said in response to the spike in cases in the three states, the first step had been taken to establish the cause of disease through the agency’s national reference laboratory, even as the NCDC had deployed a Rapid Response Team to Delta and Enugu states to support outbreak investigation and response activities. Ihekweazu, who stated that the risk of Yellow Fever remains in the country, however, urged Nigerians to take responsibility for their health and of those around them as well as get vaccinated. He added that parents should ensure their children receive the free Yellow Fever vaccine as part of routine immunisation schedule and those in doubt of their vaccination status should visit a health facility to request for the vaccine. According to him, “the government has committed to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemic (EYE) strategy to ensure all have access to the vaccine against the disease and that we do not record outbreaks in our communities.” He further asked that Nigerians should refrain from referring to the disease as “strange disease.” According to him, “to properly respond to an infectious disease outbreak, we must understand its cause. We have now established and confirmed through laboratory testing that the increase in cases and deaths in some communities in Bauchi, Delta and Enugu states are as a result of Yellow Fever virus. “There is nothing strange about the disease, which was first detected in Nigeria over 40 years ago. We know how the virus is transmittable and we have an effective vaccine that provides immunity for life.”
Dr Ihekweazu urged Nigerians to keep their environments clean in order to prevent breeding of Aedes mosquitoes which spread Yellow Fever virus as well as other infectious diseases. He also urged them to sleep under insecticide-treated nets to prevent mosquito bites and if feeling ill, they should seek immediate medical attention at a hospital. Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, stated that records from the three states (Delta, Enugu and Bauchi) on the ongoing outbreak showed the people involved have never taken the vaccine.
According to him, for many people, a single dose of Yellow Fever vaccine provided life-long protection and a booster dose was not needed. He, however, said travellers going to areas with outbreaks might consider taking a booster dose if it had been more than 10 years they took the Yellow Fever vaccine. “Yellow Fever vaccine is recommended for persons nine months and older, who live or are travelling to areas at risk of Yellow Fever in Africa and South America. So, it is not part of the WHO’s Eliminating Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy that a campaign should be conducted in the country every 10 years,” he said.