By Adedapo Adesanya
**As NCDC Confirms 102 Deaths from Lassa Fever in 2021
Greece has donated about one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Nigeria as the federal government moves to ensure more citizens are vaccinated against the disease.
A delegation from the European country led by its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, announced the donation of the vaccines in Abuja on Monday.
Mr Dendias made the announcement at a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, and other Nigerian government officials.
He said Nigeria and Greece have enjoyed a favourable bond over the years and that his country was even willing to expand the relationship between both nations.
The Greek minister explained that such an expansion would culminate in the signing of Memoranda of Understanding on various issues affecting both countries.
Mr Onyeama, on his part, said Nigeria has enjoyed a smooth partnership with Greece in the area of defence.
He said the present administration was willing to expand its partnership with Greece, especially in the areas of agriculture and infrastructure.
In another health-related development, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in its latest situation report on the Lassa fever disease that a total of 102 infected people died from the disease in 2021.
“Cumulatively from week 1 to week 52, 2021, 102 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 20.0 per cent which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2020 (20.7 per cent).
“In total for 2021, 17 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 68 Local Government Areas.”
Of all the cases confirmed last year, three states accounted for 84 per cent – Edo (42 per cent), Ondo (34 per cent), and Bauchi (eight per cent).
The predominant age group affected, according to the NCDC, is 21-30 years while the male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:0.9.
It, however, indicated that the number of suspected cases decreased compared to the figure reported for the same period in 2020.
Lassa virus is transmitted to man by infected multi-mammate rats and humans become infected from direct contact with the urine and faeces of the rat carrying the virus.
In a bid to further tackle the disease in the new year, the NCDC said it was conducting high burden states preparedness/response engagement meeting.
It added that the National Emergency Operations Centre alert mode has been activated for effective multisectoral and multi-disciplinary coordination, stressing that the State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre has been triggered in affected states.
“The five Lassa fever molecular laboratories in the NCDC network are working full capacity to ensure that all samples are tested, and results provided within the shortest turnaround time,” the agency said.
“Confirmed cases are treated at identified treatment centres across the states. Dissemination of reviewed case management and safe burial practices guidelines. Risk communications and community engagement activities have been scaled up across states using television, radio, print, social media and other strategies,” it added.
NCDC also said it has deployed rapid response teams to three states and the Federal Ministry of Environment has implemented a Lassa fever environmental response campaign in high burden states.
Lassa fever is an acute viral illness and a viral haemorrhagic fever first reported in the Lassa community in Borno State when two missionary nurses died from an unusual febrile illness.
Since then, Nigeria has continued to report cases and outbreaks and the disease is increasingly recognised to be endemic in many parts of West Africa such as Benin Republic, Ghana, Mali and the Mano River region (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea).
People also contract the disease by touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food, or exposure to open cuts or sores.
Secondary transmission from person to person can also occur as a result of exposure to the virus in the blood, tissue, urine, faeces or other bodily secretions of an infected patient.
Medic West Africa Conference to Focus on Healthcare Innovation
By Adedapo Adesanya
Medic West Africa Exhibition and Conference, the biggest gathering of healthcare trade professionals in the West African region, will be making a long-awaited in-person return to the Landmark Centre in Lagos, Nigeria from September 7-9, 2022.
Organised by Informa Markets, the 9th edition of the show will bring together healthcare equipment manufacturers, distributors, procurement professionals, dealers, medical practitioners, and regulators.
More than 5,000 healthcare professionals are expected to attend, with 150 exhibitors representing 32 countries taking part. Addressing post-pandemic market needs, the event will furthermore see the addition of a dedicated space for laboratory professionals for the first time, called “Medlab Area”.
Speaking on this, Amogh Wadwalkar, Exhibition Manager, Medic West Africa, said: “Medic West Africa is the premier healthcare exhibition and conference platform showcasing global healthcare technologies and innovations in support of healthcare solutions in Nigeria and West Africa.
“We look forward to connecting all parties in the healthcare ecosystem as the one-stop shop for all healthcare sourcing and procurement needs in the region, and to unveil the latest innovations in healthcare technology – needed for the urgent transformation of our health infrastructures.”
Among the scheduled exhibitors are leading local and international industry players such as GE Healthcare West Africa, Siemens Healthineers, DCL Laboratories, Erba Manheim, Alpha Specialties, Qiagen, Abbott, and Standard Electro Medical Equipment Company (SEMED).
Products and services on display will include state-of-the-art imaging equipment, laboratory and IVD technology, developments in surgery, advances in prosthetics, and cost-effective disposables, among many others.
In addition, Medic West Africa is set to play host to several interactive sessions, leveraging the expertise of key players in the industry on topical issues for the advancement of the healthcare industry.
According to Cynthia Makarutse, Senior Conference Producer, Medic West Africa, “In collaboration with Nigerian healthcare societies, Medic West Africa conferences will promote dialogue on key stakeholder issues for the advancement of the industry. We connect government stakeholders with leading commercial entities to deliver solutions to topical issues and challenges facing healthcare professionals in West Africa.
“The conference will focus on key post-pandemic outcomes such as innovation and disruption, health equity, and workforce resilience. It is the pre-eminent event for healthcare professionals who value the power of knowledge-sharing, networking, and business”.
Key discussions will occur in the following planned conferences: Healthcare Leadership Conference – Leveraging disruption in healthcare – opportunities & challenges in technology, in partnership with the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria;
Quality Management Conference — Human Resource for Healthcare: Building an efficient and resilient workforce, in partnership with the Society for Quality in Healthcare in Nigeria.
Others include Healthcare Business Conference – Consumer-Driven Healthcare Innovations (CDHIs) – Data, Devices and Digital Health Solutions, in partnership with Healthcare Leadership Academy, and Access to Healthcare Conference – COVID – A socioeconomic phenomenon, in partnership with Bey Health.
Attendance at the Medic West Africa trade exhibition is free for healthcare and trade professionals and interested candidates can visit www.medicwestafrica.com.
WHO, Edo Intensify Response to Combat Monkeypox
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Edo State government have intensified a coordinated response to contain the spread of the Monkeypox disease.
So far, Nigeria has reported 357 suspected cases with 133 confirmed monkeypox cases from 25 states – Lagos, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Nasarawa Plateau FCT, Ondo, Anambra Cross River, Kwara, Borno, Taraba, Oyo, Imo, Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Niger Ogun, Kogi, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom and Abia.
Meanwhile, eight persons have so far tested positive for monkeypox in Edo state, and all the people diagnosed with the disease have recovered.
The Director, Public Health, Edo State Ministry of Health, Dr Ojeifo Stephenson, said it has become imperative to warn the residents of the state about the health risks that the virus poses and reiterate the need to be cautious and adhere to preventive measures.
He said the state Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, has ramped up surveillance, diagnostics and other activities to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
“We have stepped up surveillance including prompt investigation of suspected cases, facilitating documentation of contacts, contact tracing and monitoring, as well as developed and disseminated public health advisory to raise awareness about the disease among residents of the state,” he said.
Additionally, Dr Benson Okwara, who works at UBTH, said WHO has been an invaluable partner in the response to monkeypox diagnosis and treatment in the facility.
Dr Okwara has five years of experience in managing patients with monkeypox.
He lamented that the disease spreads within the communities because of the poor health-seeking behaviour and late presentation of the case to the hospital.
“However, with WHO’s coordination, there is an early response following notification of suspected/confirmed cases with detailed case investigations using the monkeypox case investigation form (CIF) to collect data on patient contacts.
“There is a need for continuous risk messaging to educate people about infectious diseases and the importance of seeking medical care early and at appropriate health facilities to prevent the spread of diseases,” he said.
Across Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), supported by WHO, has activated Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre to strengthen in-country preparedness and contribute to the global response to the outbreak.
Furthermore, WHO is supporting the coordination of technical assistance and operational support of partners, including the national One-health risk surveillance and information sharing (NOHRSIS) group, to facilitate timely information exchange on all prioritized zoonotic diseases.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease endemic in Nigeria and some parts of Africa.
However, there has been sporadic spread to other countries as more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported across more than 70 countries so far this year, and the number of confirmed infections rose 77 per cent from late June through early July.
The virus is being transmitted from animals to humans.
Recently, WHO activated its highest alert level for the growing monkeypox outbreak, declaring the virus a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO to Help Nigeria Achieve NHIA Act 2022 Objectives
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its desire to support Nigeria in operationalising the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act 2022 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2022.
WHO’s Country Representative (WR), Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, made this pledge during a high-level meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, the Director General, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Professor Mohammed Sambo, and a team of WHO Health Financing Mission delegates from the WHO Geneva, Africa Regional Office, and Nigeria.
The first ever high-level WHO Health Financing Mission to Nigeria, led by Dr Joseph Kutzin, was scheduled to provide sustainable health financing support to the country towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health security while undertaking targeted advocacy to accelerate operationalization of the NHIA Act including the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF).
This is in line with WHO’s goal of ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship.
Dr Mulombo said President Buhari’s signing of the NHIA Bill into law will make health insurance mandatory for all legal residents in Nigeria and expands coverage to over 83 million poor and vulnerable people.
He expressed the optimism that government will prioritize immediate appropriation of the Special Intervention Fund in the Act to establish the Vulnerable Group Fund.
“Indeed, the task of ensuring that all citizens have access to the quality healthcare they need without falling into poverty is a deliberate political decision to achieve the cardinal objectives of population coverage, service coverage, and financial protection. I have no doubts that in a large federal nation like Nigeria, this milestone of appropriating the Special Intervention Fund will be achieved in the 2023 fiscal year”, he said.
In his remarks, Mr Mustapha appreciated WHO as the foremost development partner to Nigeria on health and lauded WHO’s invaluable guidance, particularly on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WHO has demonstrated that it is an organization that cares for and caters for the health needs of the people. On the NHIA, let me commend the DG for his tenacity and determination to have this Act come to fruition. I want to thank WHO and other partners who supported in the drafting of the Bill. This modest attempt has provided basic health insurance coverage to the vulnerable, and making it mandatory will go a long way in assisting our people to manage their income and remain at work in terms of the depressed economy we are witnessing”.
The SGF further expressed the government’s commitment to appropriate the Special Intervention Fund (SIF) in the 2023 national budget for the establishment of the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF).
“No family in Nigeria has economically survived catering for any of their own suffering from cancer. The health of our people is therefore topmost on our priorities despite competing demands”, he stated.
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