‘Nigeria, 22 other countries still at risk of Ebola outbreak’


‘15% vote for health sector not feasible in 2017’
Nigeria and 22 other countries remain at risk of animal-to-human transmission of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), according to a new study.

Only Nigeria and six of the 22 countries have experienced cases of Ebola, leaving the remaining 15 potentially unaware of areas where the virus can thrive and, therefore, underprepared for future outbreaks.
The study entitled, “Updates to the zoonotic niche map of Ebola virus disease,” was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington in Seattle, United States (U.S.).
Only a few countries experienced cases of Ebola before 2013, until Guinea unexpectedly reported an outbreak that led to more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths across West Africa.
The current findings, published yesterday in the journal eLife, provide an update on a 2014 study that created a zoonotic niche map used to define areas of environmental suitability for Ebola, in response to the outbreak. This map identified regions where the virus could be transmitted from animals to humans. The updated map published today incorporates more species of bats capable of transmitting Ebola, as well as new reports on the virus.
Alongside the current study and update, IHME launched a new online data visualisation tool for stakeholders and the public.
The paper’s lead author and an Assistant Professor at IHME, Dr. David Pigott, said: “The visualisation tool provides an important way for various end users to engage and interrogate these updated maps.
“Unlike with the previous publication, anyone can now directly interact with the maps, use the tool and better assess the potential threat that Ebola virus disease poses to their regions of interest.”
The tool allows users to view previous Ebola index cases, as well as explore the areas where bat species thought to be capable of transmitting the virus are predicted to live. The maps are displayed in a 5-by-5 km grid across Africa, allowing users to zoom into their countries to see areas of interest. This type of geospatial mapping tool is the first of its kind from IHME.
In countries where an Ebola outbreak is possible, the update and new data visualisation are powerful tools that allow decision-makers to set policies to prepare for potential outbreaks in the future.
Researchers have also found that areas stricken by extreme poverty are more likely to be associated with high rates of Ebola transmission and spread.
The Head of the Ebola Containment Team and Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, corroborated the findings of the study, saying Nigeria is still vulnerable not just to EVD but to any other emerging infectious disease.
Idris, in a telephone chat with The Guardian, said: “Nigeria is now better prepared than it was in 2014 but needs to do much more on sensitisation of the public and manning of the borders.
“There is need for high level of sensitisation. All the states are on alert. We treat any suspected case with high level of care. We are better than we were but need to do much more. We have to be on alert for possible Ebola outbreak or any other emerging disease. We are still vulnerable not just to Ebola but other infectious diseases In the meantime, the Minister of National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has said the Federal Government would allocate more funds to the health sector to ensure improved child nutrition and wellbeing.
The minister who stated this during an advocacy meeting with the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFAH) maintained that he could not commit to raising the funds in the health sector to 15 per cent as stipulated in the Abuja declaration.
According to him, the country is going through a difficult economic situation and government is trying restructure the economy and ensure that it diversifies the revenue base, stressing that a large proportion of the budget would be channelled towards infrastructure development.
Udoma said: “It is through the infrastructure that we are able to get growth, improve agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals and all the other things that could be use to grow the economy and when we get the resources it can be use to invest in health. We have to invest in infrastructure that would turn this economy around.”
While pledging the administration support towards vaccination to ensure that children are immunized, he said there was a strong commitment by the present administration to raising the funds appropriated to the sector. He urged PACFAH to liaise with the Ministry of Health which is in the best position to determine the areas of priority and how best to achieve the objectives of the administration.
The minister commended PACFAH, maintaining that government alone cannot improve the health sector, as it needs commitment from the private sector, NGO and other stakeholders.

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