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NCDC Worry Over Cholera Spread, May Declare Emergency

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Jide Idris, has indicated that the agency might declare a public health emergency if the ongoing cholera outbreak surpasses manageable thresholds.

This statement was made during his speech at the Adetokunbo Alakija Memorial Travel Medicine Lecture held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, organized by the Nigerian Society of Travel Medicine.

In response to escalating concerns, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Organisation for Migration convened an emergency meeting in Lagos to strategize on containment measures.

The WHO Country Representative, Dr. Walter Mulombo, highlighted the urgency of the situation in a post on his X (formerly Twitter) account.

The NCDC’s latest report paints a grim picture, with over 1,141 suspected and more than 65 confirmed cases of cholera reported from January 1 to June 11, 2024.

These cases have resulted in over 30 deaths across 96 Local Government Areas in 30 states. Lagos State alone has reported 350 suspected cases, with 17 confirmations and 15 deaths, primarily due to severe dehydration exacerbated by delayed medical treatment.

Dr. Idris, after delivering his address on strengthening travel medicine in Nigeria, spoke to Punch about the cholera situation.

He mentioned that the NCDC has been actively conducting risk assessments and closely monitoring the outbreak’s progression.

The potential declaration of an emergency would depend on continuous data evaluation and the geographical spread and severity of the outbreak.

Idris said, “We have been tracking cholera cases and we are documenting them. For the last two or three weeks, the incidence shot up, with a rising number of deaths and that is why we started investigating and this is where Lagos State came in.”

He maintained that based on the data that would be obtained from all the partners involved in the assessment, “if they look at the data and they decide that the situation has gone beyond a particular threshold, then we call it an emergency situation.”

He said the agency was still awaiting reports from the team conducting the investigation.

“So when they come, when they bring the data, if it has gone beyond a particular threshold, we declare an emergency,” he added.

He, however, warned that prevention and preparation were key to tackling such a disease outbreak.

“We must prepare; prevention means to create the facilities that you will need, the isolation centres, and look at the human resource you have, etc,” he said.

On her part, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s Special Adviser on Health, Kemi Ogunyemi, said cholera had much to do with the environment and the Ministry of Health had to work with environmental agencies to address the menace.

She said, “It’s all about the environment, it’s about water, it’s about what you eat, it’s about people defecating, and all that is flushed into the drainage system. It’s not just the Ministry of Health, we cannot work in isolation, and we are trying our best. We have programmes – the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene known as WASH. We are trying to get clean water into all (areas), we are looking at pipes that are broken, and the things that are not working, etc.”

She urged people to also take individual responsibilities by maintaining personal hygiene.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government, on Wednesday, issued precautionary measures on cholera prevention to schools, parents and guardians.

A statement signed by the Commissioner for Education, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Jamiu Alli-Balogun, explained that the state government had created awareness among vulnerable groups and the school system to contain the outbreak.

In the guidelines or advisories, the state government urged schools to: “Ensure that all school food handlers follow strict hygiene practices to prevent contamination and the spread of diseases.

“Ensure that oral rehydration salts are available at school clinics or bays to manage dehydration cases promptly.

“Ensure that handwashing facilities are in working order in the following areas as priority, washroom exits, food preparation areas, entrance of classes, entrance of canteens/halls at the exit to toilet facilities.

“Ensure the provision of soap at handwashing stations. All WASH facilities are required to be regularly cleaned and monitored a minimum of twice a day.

“Bleach or chlorine solution should be used for surface cleaning in WASH facilities and food preparation areas with 0.2% chlorine solution.”

The government asked schools to call emergency lines 08023169485, 08137412348 or 767/112 in case of any health emergencies or suspected cholera cases.

It urged parents and guardians to daily monitor children’s health for symptoms such as fever, passage of frequent watery stool with or without vomiting.

It advised parents to keep children at home if they exhibit any signs of illness and seek medical advice.

“Ensure your child carries a hand sanitiser and encourage frequent handwashing with soap and water, especially before meals and after using the restroom.

“Remind your child to maintain a safe distance from others where possible, avoiding unnecessary physical contact. Ensure your child’s vaccinations are up to date. Encourage a balanced diet to boost your child’s immune system. Stay in touch with your child’s school for updates on health guidelines and report any health concerns to the school promptly.

“Inform the school in the event of ill-health of your child,” the guidelines added.

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