Why govt needs to increase surveillance on viral diseases


A Professor of virology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Sunday Omilabu has tasked the Federal Government on the need to increase surveillance on viral diseases in the country to avoid emergencies.

Speaking at the 13th Annual Conference of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, CMUL, Omilabu said in the light of Nigeria conquering Ebola, the way forward is to wake up from the slumber, because those viral agents are around and really growing and improving on their arsenals.

He lamented,“we have to be up and doing in terms of active surveillance to know what is where to enhance preparations before any sort of outbreak.”

Omilabu cited lack of surveillance, diagnostic facilities and inadequate health education as the major challenges in the effective tackling Lassa fever in the country.

“It is the health education that actually fought Ebola for us during the outbreak, as people were aware and informed,” he added.

The virologist further mentioned that immunization programmes should be scaled up in the country especially among children.

According to him, not everyone who receives vaccine gets immunized because “our vaccines are not potent due to inappropriate temperatures for storage.”

He cited the instance of vaccines for life virus that ought to be kept in very cool temperatures, but owing to epileptic power supply, the reverse is the case.

He remarked that storage facilities lack power generation equipment to power the freezers where these vaccines are expected to be stored, and those are the pains of the situation.

“Studies from the 80s and 90s has showed that vaccines were not potent because they were badly stored with poor temperature,” and in cases like this, the recipient of such vaccine doesn’t get immunized, he noted.

Omilabu advised on the need to run pre vaccination anti body testing and post vaccination anti body testing checks to ascertain the immunity of patients before and after vaccination.

“If their immunity level is alright, the introduction of vaccine poses danger to the patient as immunity would be reduced. Vaccines are meant for people who do not have immunity at all,” he expressed.

Addressing the theme for the conference “Environment Virology, Exposomics and Epigenetics,” Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Prof. Njideka Okubadejo stated that many things happen in within the environment, which tend to influence the type of diseases that are prevalence and how they re – emerge in particular areas.

Omilabu in his keynote lecture titled “Emerging And Re – Remerging Infectious Diseases” pointed out the ongoing insurgencies in some part of the country as a huge contributor to both emerging and re – emerging viral diseases.

He explained, “as far as emerging and re – emerging of diseases are concerned with the insurgencies, Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) are the breeding grounds for chain of transmission of diseases, because human beings are their dead end host.”

This he attributed to destruction of social amenities by terrorists as well as killings of vaccinators in those regions, hence late vaccination in those areas.

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