Nigerians must be prepared for a disease outbreak anytime as global warming and ease of transportation have made it easy for an outbreak in any country to get to another fast.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, gave the advice in his remarks at the University of Lagos Pro-Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Annual Lecture Series, on Monday in Lagos.
The lecture was entitled “Responding to Nigeria’s Disease Outbreaks and Epidemics: Ebola, Zika and HIV.
It was delivered by a Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Pyllis Kanki, Harvard School of Public Health, USA.
“The slogan now at the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters is that we must prepare for Lassa fever, Ebola, Zika, HIV and disease X.
“Where X is that disease that we do not know of, yet we should expect.
“In other words, there will be another outbreak, what we do not know is the nature of the outbreak and where it is going to start from,’’ he said.
He praised the University of Lagos for the lecture which, he said, was timely.
“Talks on disease outbreak and epidemic will attract any minister of health who is serious; being here is another opportunity to steal ideas from the guest lecturer,” he said.
Adewole said that universities must deliver public good besides conferring degrees and conducting researches.
“To us in the health sector, this is public good,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria has contained a number of disease outbreaks in recent years.
He noted that the country contained Lassa fever outbreak in 2015 and resurgence of polio in 2016.
“We also had outbreaks of cholera, measles and Yellow fever; so, we must be prepared.
“What we have done is to invite WHO to conduct a joint external evaluation of our level of preparedness.
“This will help us to do our internal reassessment and position ourselves to handle not only current outbreaks, but future ones.
“That assessment gave us a hint as to what should be done, as we also learnt lessons from the last Lassa fever outbreak where 75 per cent of cases came from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi.
“What we plan to do is to reposition materials and train more people,” the minister said.
In the lecture, Kanki, said Nigeria had a history of infectious disease outbreaks which resulted in fatalities.
The don said that some major outbreaks which began with meningitis in 1996, resulted in no fewer than12,000 fatalities.
She listed the epidemics to include Lassa fever in 2018, Avian influenza in 2006 and 2015 and Ebola in 2014.
According to her, a global cartogram of HIV showed that, of 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, 70 per cent was in Africa.
“South Africa, Nigeria and India account for one-third of the global burden of HIV,” she said.
The expert said that continuous research on the immunopathogenesis of pathogenes would enhance people’s understanding of disease development and improve prospects for effective diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.
Kanki also said that continuous surveillance was vital to the public health of any country, adding that continuous surveillance of HIV drug resistance would help to evaluate the quality of HIV treatment programme.
Earlier, the Pro-Chancellor of the institution, Dr Wale Babalakin, said that the objective of the lecture series was to increase knowledge of Nigerians.
According to him, the lecture was also to harness talents from all areas of human endeavour to advance knowledge.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, promised that the lecture would be upheld in an effort to expand the frontiers of knowledge.