A recent news story in Bloomberg Businessweek proclaims “How to Avert an Ebola Nightmare: Lessons from Nigeria’s Victory.” The article outlines the remarkable achievement of Nigeria’s Ministry of Health with partners, including CDC, to contain the spread of Ebola in that country. Now declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria stands as a case study for other nations who are at high-risk for transmission of Ebola from neighboring countries.
A team of Nigerian scientists shared those lessons with public health officials from Ghana and Gambia at a workshop held October 7-9, 2014, in Accra, Ghana, “Strengthening Detection and Response Capacity to Significant Public Health Events, including Ebola.” Led by Dr. Akin Oyenakinde, Chief Consultant Epidemiologist at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Nigerian team described the critical role of communication, their emergency operations center, financial resources, political will, and contact tracing to the effective control of Ebola. He highlighted the role of the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, an initiative in partnership with CDC, in preparing Nigeria for response to Ebola. Notably 100 or the 150 contact tracers who monitored potential Ebola cases were trained through the Nigeria FELTP program.
Participants in the workshop peppered Dr. Oyenakinde and his team with questions about case management, infection control, and contact tracing. Their response was evidence that countries who have successfully met the challenge of public health emergencies have high credibilty for nations who are preparing for potential cases of Ebola.
The workshop in Ghana shared best practices, such as those applied in Nigeria, and led participants through hypothetical, but likely scenarios in which Ebola was introduced into their countries. Participants were asked to respond to those scenarios by identifying resources and strategies for early detection, infection control, contact tracing, and emergency operations systems. At the end of the workshop, the process was designed to help Ghana and Gambia create concrete plans. The workshop was sponsored by the USAID, in partnership with CDC, Public Health England, and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
The workshop in Ghana was the second of three planned regional Ebola preparedness workshops. The first was held in Cote d‘Ivoire, and the third is designed in Cameroon for West Africa French-speaking countries, November 4-6. The workshops are one part of a multi-prong strategy that CDC is supporting to prepare countries that are at high risk for introduction of Ebola, but have not yet reported cases or faced widespread disease.