THE Federal Government, on Thursday, warned pregnant women in Nigeria not to travel to Brazil, South American countries or to any other country infected by Zika virus.
The government also declared, however, that there was no sufficient ground to stop Nigerian contigents going for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil from going. It warned that they should also take adequate precaution.
Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, who addressed a press conference on Zika virus outbreak and Nigeria’s preparedness and response strategy, said as the Health Minister, he would discourage pregnant people from going to Brazil and other country infected by the virus.
The minister said: “I advise all Nigerians, particularly pregnant women, to avoid travelling to countries infected by this virus during this period.”
Also responding to a question, he added: “Would I advise the Nigerian contingents not to go? The answer is not, there is no sufficient ground to discourage them, but I will discourage pregnant people from going as a Minister of Health, otherwise, all you have to do is to protect yourself. Even Zika is now in the United Kingdom (UK), I’m sure you heard the news on yesterday.
“I think the real challenge for all of us is to be on alert, the world has become a village that it will be too difficult to restrict anybody. So, wherever you are, be it in the UK, Africa, Asia or Latin America, please, protect yourself.
“If, however, you are to visit any country where Zika virus is now being actively transmitted, you are advised to protect yourselves from mosquito bites. Pregnant women considering travel to affected areas may wish to consult their health care provider prior to travel and after return.
“They should also practise personal and household steps to prevent mosquito, including putting mosquito repellant on their clothes and skin, wear long sleeves and pants, and sleep underneath mosquito nets at night, where possible. I wish to call on all Nigerians to support our pregnant women and help them access anti-mosquito repellants.”
He called on all states of the federation to immediately embark on health education campaigns to empower communities take actions to protect themselves from Zika virus, as well as other mosquito-borne diseases.
On government’s determination to check against the importation of Zika virus to the country, the minister said the travelling history of all those who come into the country were now well screened to establish where they were coming from, while all cargoes, ships and vehicles were sprayed with insecticides.
According to him: “All those who come into the country, there is usually a form that we now ask them to fill when they alight, Zika virus is also now added. That form was specifically for Ebola in the past, we have added other things, we believe we must move beyond Ebola.
“By the time you are landing, we want to screen your travelling history, we want to identify where you are coming from. That is one step. The other step is to insist that the poor health services should ensure that all ships and motor vehicles coming into the country are actually sprayed with insecticides to kill mosquitoes.”
Professor Adewole said Nigerian scientists working in Western Nigeria in 1954 discovered Zika virus in Nigeria, adding that further studies in 1975 to 1979 showed that 40 per cent of Nigeria adults and 25 per cent of Nigerian children had antibodies to Zika virus, meaning they were protected against this virus.
He added that “it is important, however, to state categorically, that until now in Africa and Nigeria inclusive, this virus does not cause any serious illness and those so far infected individually recovered fully with no serious complications.
“Arrival of this virus in some countries of the Americas, notably Brazil, has, however, changed this and its circulation is now associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads, named scientifically as Microcephalia. It is also associated with increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a poorly understood condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis.”
The minister added: “Although two African countries have reported Zika infection in the recent outbreak and in the past, many others, causal relationship between Zika virus infection, birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established in this continent.
“There is as of now, no known specific treatment for Zika virus disease. Treatment is, therefore, generally supportive and it includes rest, fluids and use of pain killers and antipyretics.
“In a pregnant woman with laboratory evidence of Zika virus in serum or amniotic fluid, serial ultrasounds should be considered to monitor fetal anatomy and growth every 3-4 weeks. Referral to a maternal-fetal medicine or infectious disease specialist with expertise in pregnancy management is recommended.”
In a related development, the Federal Government has declared that the death fatality as a result of Lassa fever outbreak has hit 61.4 per cent, saying that the disease has killed 108 people as at Thursday.
Giving the update on Lassa fever control on Thursday, in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said the outbreak of Lassa fever that started in December, last year, had affected 20 states of the federation, with 176 cases and 108 deaths.
“As at today, the 10th of February, Nigeria has recorded 176 cases, with 108 deaths, given a case fatality rate of 61.4 per cent. Out of this, 78 are confirmed cases and 49 deaths, given a specific case fatality rate of 62.8 per cent,” he said.
He pointed out that the 176 cases and 108 deaths are the total cases reported (suspected, probable and confirmed), while a total confirmed cases is 78 and deaths in confirmed cases was 49.
The minister stated that as at today, 20 states were currently following up contacts or have suspected or probable cases, with laboratory results pending or laboratory confirmed cases.
He said: “It is important that I inform the nation that this current outbreak is under control as evidenced by decline in new suspected cases, new laboratory confirmed cases and newly reported cases by week.”
He, however, warned of complacency, as it may flare-up during the dry season, adding that “despite this achievement, you will agree with me that it will be dangerous if we go complacent at this stage, as we could record another flare-up and a second wave deep in the dry season.”