The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has restated its commitment to prioritising Nigeria’s health security amid competing priorities on the national agenda.
Speaking during the bi-weekly ministerial press briefing on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in Abuja, the NCDC director-general, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa reassured that the agency would continue responding to infectious diseases, including Lassa fever, measles, cholera and yellow fever.
“Last week, we reviewed our National Strategic Plan for Cholera Control. This is part of our collaborative efforts to keep cholera on the public health agenda and achieve a 90 per cent reduction in cholera deaths by 2030.
“At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we emphasise again that we must continue to practice good hand hygiene, environmental hygiene and proper respiratory etiquette and other safety precautions for our safety and those around us,” he said.
While highlighting the COVID-19 trends globally and in-country, monkeypox and the agency’s ongoing activities to prevent and control infectious diseases in the country, he said that, globally, cases have continued to decline since a peak in January.
The NCDC DG said there were still COVID-19 reports from countries like North Korea currently struggling with an overwhelming number of cases.
“In the UK, there was a 43 per cent rise in cases, with suggestions being that this is due to variants of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.
“In countries like China, maintaining a zero COVID policy, numbers considered minimal by other countries – 166 – continue to result in immediate, consistent testing of affected persons and their contacts and lockdown.
“Alternately, India reported 13,216 new COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths in 24 hours.
“Here in Nigeria, we have recorded a total of 256,573 confirmed cases with 3,144 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.
“If the above differing reports show anything, it is that we cannot afford to drop the ball on our preventive and response activities to the COVID-19 virus,” he said.
Adetifa said that with the commencement of the Hajj Pilgrimage in the country the NCDC was supporting the port health services to ensure pilgrims meet the health protocol requirements of Saudi Arabia.
“We continue to strengthen diagnostic capacity by adding new laboratories to the COVID-19 network.
“We continue to engage with states to ensure regular reporting and response continuity.
“We have ensured continued working with NYSC camps for safe reopening to minimise infection risk,” he said.
Speaking of monkeypox, he said that globally, between January 1 and June 15, 2022, a total of 2,103 laboratory-confirmed cases, one probable cause and one death were reported to World Health Organisation (WHO) from 42 countries in five WHO regions.
“In Nigeria, as of June 19, 2022, 41 confirmed monkeypox cases and one death have been reported.
“Among the 41 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus (such as spreading among the MSM group), nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented in Nigeria (including symptoms, profile and virulence) as compared to other countries in the global north reporting cases.
“Unfortunately, just like the COVID-19 pandemic, we observe a repeating pattern of the media and the public magnifying this disease – endemic to Nigeria – due to the increasing number of reported cases worldwide,” he said.
He disclosed that the NCDC has been part of many conversations in recent weeks on monkeypox and was also pushing for the de-stigmatisation of the disease and renaming.
Adetifa said that the global report of the disease in men aged zero to 65 with a median age of 37; most self-identified as men who have sex with men.
“Our work continues as we encourage increased state surveillance nationwide and ensure that this focus on monkeypox enables the appropriate prioritisation of this disease which has quietly plagued people over the years,” he explained.
The NCDC boss said that the agency continues to lead the response through the Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre, which was activated on May 25, 2022, at a level 2 response.
“We have sustained and intensified risk communication and community activities for monkeypox,” he said.
Adetifa said that research remains integral to the agency’s work.
“As such, we have prioritized enhanced research and surveillance for monkeypox to improve our understanding of the virus epidemiology.
“In collaboration with the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) we conducted animal surveillance in Adamawa State to investigate the possible role of rodents in the transmission of the virus,” he explained.