The World Health Organisation, WHO, is preparing to announce that Nigeria has not had a confirmed case of Ebola for 42 days – or two incubation periods of 21 days – just as it did for Senegal on Friday.
WHO on Friday declared Senegal free of Ebola after 42 days passed without a new confirmed case.
“WHO officially declares the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over and commends the country on its diligence to end the transmission of the virus,” the UN health agency had said in a statement.
The benchmark of 42 days is twice the maximum incubation period for the disease.
A similar WHO statement on Nigeria is expected on Monday (today) after the requisite period without a new infection.
The Nigeria’s achievement is coming amid global fight against the disease that has continued to ravage West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There are also mounting fears around the world of EVD becoming a global plague. Already, the disease has claimed the life of a victim in the United States of America.
The disease has claimed more than 4,500 lives this year.
Close attention is being paid to how Nigeria, with an under-funded and ill-equipped health system, managed to contain the virus, as specialists look for a more effective response to control the EVD spread.
But there were warnings against any premature celebration, with complacency still a risk and luck considered to have played a part in containing the outbreak.
Eight people died out of 20 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria, with all infections traced back to the index case, the Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who arrived in Lagos on July 20.
Many feared the worst when Sawyer died on July 25 in a private hospital in Lagos.
Doctors were on strike at the time the EVD case occurred over pay and conditions in the public health sector; and many state hospitals lack running water, let alone soap and other basic equipment.
Yet the doomsday scenario of rapid spread among the populace did not materialise.
“Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale,” the Agence France-Presse quoted the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention official, John Vertefeuille, as saying: “They acted aggressively, especially in terms of contact-tracing.”
Key to the response was an existing plan for a mass outbreak of polio, which was adapted to Ebola, as well as a rapid appeal for foreign help.
The Ebola Emergency Operations Centre prioritised contact-tracing and twice-daily monitoring of those at risk, with experts aware that every Ebola case was in contact with about 50 people.
In all, nearly 900 people were monitored in Lagos and Port Harcourt in Rivers State, where one contact of Sawyer, an ECOWAS protocol official, Ibukun Olu-Koye, travelled after slipping surveillance. The ECOWAS official, curiously, was treated in an hotel room by Dr. Iyke Enemuo. While Olu-Koye survived the disease, Enemuo died of same.
Some 1,800 people were trained to trace and monitor those at risk, as well as decontaminate infected places and care for the sick, said the head of the EEOC, Faisal Shuaib.
Luck cannot be discounted in Nigeria’s first brush with Ebola. Sawyer was taken straight to hospital after arriving from Monrovia visibly ill, keeping him off Lagos’ teeming streets.
The late Dr. Stella Adedavoh, who treated Sawyer had also prevented him from discharging himself.
Public health campaigns, including a giant electronic billboard warning about Ebola just outside the hospital where Sawyer died, have helped raise awareness.
Airports and seaports have introduced compulsory screening on arrival and departure; temperature checks and hand sanitiser use for the public are now the norm.