The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, is planning to carry out a nationwide surveillance to understand and monitor the epidemiology of Zika virus in Nigeria for appropriate interventions to be put in place.
Disclosing this in its newly released publication entitled “Public Health Risk Assessment of Zika Virus in Nigeria and Interim Recommendations”, the NCDC noted that the current epidemiology of Zika in Nigeria has not been well documented or understood due to paucity of recent data.
The document which contains a risk assessment of Zika virus infection for Nigeria, and recommendations to healthcare workers and the general public on how to protect themselves from the virus, observed that the virus shares a similar vector; the Aedes (Steogmyia) mosquitoes, also responsible for other flavivirus infections recorded in Nigeria such as such as yellow fever and dengue.
It notes that the environmental and human behavioural risk factors in areas with reported Zika outbreaks are similar to those found in Nigeria and would thus favour the circulation of Zika.
According to the document: “Possible cross-reaction with other endemic flaviviruses like yellow fever and dengue; genetic host factors protecting against infection or disease; low vector competence and transmission efficiency; lack of diagnostic testing; and the absence of systematic surveillance are potential limitations to detect on-going transmission of Zika in Nigeria.”
Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are among countries with the largest at risk populations and vulnerability to future Zika virus epidemics because of their limited per capita health resources, coupled with high volume traffic to the Americas where the virus is currently endemic.
In it’s recommendations to the general public, the NCDC admonished travellers to access up-to-date advice to on how to reduce the risk of becoming infected, including preventing mosquito bites and practicing safer sex from health care providers or public health authorities.
To prevent mosquito bites during trips, Nigerian travellers should wear clothing – preferably light coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible; apply insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide), or IR 3535 or Icaridin to exposed skin or to clothing in accordance with the label instructions.
Other measures include use of physical barriers such as regular or mesh screens or insecticide treated netting materials on doors and windows, or closing doors and windows, and sleeping under mosquito nets, especially during the day, when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.
For pregnant women, they are to postpone non-critical travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.
“Pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with ongoing or recent Zika virus transmission are to ensure safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy.
Travelers from areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission are also to practice safer sex and not to donate blood for at least one month after return to Nigeria, to reduce the potential risk of onwards transmission.
As part of its recommendations, the NCDC urged health care practitioners to ensure travelers are informed with up-to-date advice risk reduction and preventive measures before, during and after travel to areas with Zika transmission.