Nigeria, others ‘grossly underprepared’ for infectious disease outbreaks, say experts

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

A team of international experts yesterday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) warned that the world remains ‘grossly underprepared’ for outbreaks of infectious disease, which are likely to become more frequent in the coming decades.

The researchers reviewed reports on the recent Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa and said better preparedness and a faster, more coordinated response could have prevented most of the 11,000 deaths directly attributed to the disease.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, recently corroborated the BMJ report.
Several studies have shown that the dry season, harmattan, is the peak period for most highly infectious and deadly viral diseases, such as cold and influenza virus, measles, polio, meningitis, Lassa fever, Yellow fever, among others.

Also, a rare rat virus that causes hemorrhagic fever and kidney disease has infected eight people in Wisconsin and Illinois, United States (U.S.), causing panic, even as Lassa fever broke out in Nigeria.

In August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and the world scrambled to respond.

In the aftermath, a number of reports were published reviewing what went wrong and how we should better manage infectious disease outbreaks. However, the main priorities emerging from these reports and the extent to which action has been taken on the proposed reforms is unclear.

As the WHO Executive Board gathers this week to shortlist candidates in the running for the 2017 director-general election, spearheading institutional reforms is likely to fall to the next director general.

“We found remarkable consensus on what went wrong with the Ebola response and what we need to do to address the deficiencies. Yet not nearly enough has been done,” the experts said.

“Ebola, and more recently Zika and yellow fever, have demonstrated that we do not yet have a reliable or robust global system for preventing, detecting, and responding to disease outbreaks,” they stated.

And they urged the global community “to mobilise greater resources and put in place monitoring and accountability mechanisms to ensure we are better prepared for the next pandemic.”“We will not be ready for the next outbreak without deeper and more comprehensive change,” they concluded.

In this article:
Prof Isaac AdewoleWHO
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